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When I am writing emails, I prefer to use either Mr., Mrs., or Ms. when addressing the recipient's name. When I am addressing a woman, I may not always know their marital status and don't know whether to use "Mrs." or "Ms."

Assuming I have no way of knowing this person's marital status, should I use "Mrs." or "Ms."? Or is it a best practice to use neither?

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this seems like less of an interpersonal skill and more of a question of writing style and convention. – sphennings Mar 27 '18 at 21:10
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    I'm voting Leave Open because although I agree it is about writing style and convention the particular part it is talking about is how to address strangers and how they will react to that, which to me is an interpersonal skill (in a written medium). – RyanfaeScotland Mar 28 '18 at 0:06
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    @sphennings: Well, conventions are by definition an interpersonal topic, so it would seem on-topic (though it might be on-topic on ell.stackexchange.com too - as a matter of fact, there's a question there already :-) ). – sleske Jan 14 at 8:26
  • Related question on "English Language Learners" SE: Can I use Ms. with a married women? – sleske Jan 14 at 8:27
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"Ms." was popularized in the US to provide a form of address for women that is agnostic of married status. "Miss" means the person is unmarried and "Mrs." means that she is married.

"Ms." is generally considered acceptable for all women unless they have communicated another preference or have a more specialized title like "Dr."

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I personally would not use Mr., Mrs. or Ms. and just use their full name or if they have a Doctorate degree, or are a doctor, Dr.

If you have to, just use Ms. regardless of marital status, just whatever you do, don't address a female spouse using the husband's name *eg "Mrs. John Doe." My mom absolutely hates it. Especially since she dislikes Ms. and Mrs. in favor of Dr.

5

When I am addressing a woman, I may not always know their marital status and don't know whether to use "Mrs." or "Ms."

If you don't know their marital status, you should use "Ms"

Because it is acceptable by all women. But "Mrs" is not.

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In a friendly email, I would use Mrs. if I knew that they would like to be addressed as a Mrs. Otherwise, I'd use ms., as Mrs. could be seen as rude/disrespectful. Dr. is also an appropriate honorific.

In a business email context (eg. knowing first/last name of interviewer but have never met), generally, Ms. is fine.

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When I write emails to women, I generally just use their first name, such as:

Good afternoon Myra,

It was good speaking with you today ...

But if I know if the person is married or not, I would write the prefix necessary.

As well - in the general scope, I think it's acceptable these days to address someone by their first name if you know them or have just met them. Using Mr or Mrs is great, but these days would be added flair. Respect has changed from years past. I think it's better to address people by their name, it let the people know that you took the time to remember who they were at face value.

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    Do you also use the first name of people who are not women? That might inform where this answer is coming from. – Gregory Avery-Weir Jun 27 '17 at 17:59
  • I think it's generally acceptable these days to address someone by their first name if you know them. Using Mr or Mister is great, but these days would be added flair. Respect has changed from years past. I think it's better to address people by their name, it let the people know that you took the time to remember who they were at face value. – Robert Dewitt Jun 27 '17 at 18:01
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    You may want to say that in your answer to make it clear that you're talking about a general rule and not a woman-specific one. – Gregory Avery-Weir Jun 27 '17 at 18:02
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    I disagree - it's often inappropriate to address someone by their first name. It's a lot more acceptable than it used to be, but there's a lot of mail I get where "Good afternoon David," would seem presumptuous and turn me off. It may be my age, but there are a good number of people my age and older. – David Thornley Nov 5 '18 at 23:09
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Only use a title or prefix if someone has already used it for themselves. If my child's teacher sends home a letter signed "Mrs. Crabapple", then I would address her in an email as "Mrs. Crabapple". It's much harder to offend people by referring to them the way they refer to themselves.

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