Addressbook, cup of tea and stationery at the ready, you start addressing
invitations for your husband’s fortieth birthday party. All of a sudden
you realize you are in a potential etiquette minefield. Jane and John
are married, but she does not want to be addressed as “and Mrs. John
Kelly;” Sam and Sue are not married, but live together; and Tanya is
separated but not yet divorced. What are the correct forms of address
for each of these invitations?
Help is on the way! Simply refer to our handy chart and take the mystery out
of addressing your social correspondence correctly.
|Addressing a Woman|
|Maiden name||Ms. Jane Johnson Miss Jane Johnson* *usually ‘Miss’ is for girls under 18|
|Married, keeping maiden name||Ms. Jane Johnson|
|Married, uses husband’s name socially||Mrs. John Kelly Mrs. Jane Kelly* *Nowadays this is acceptableMs. Jane Kelly|
|Separated, not divorced||Mrs. John Kelly Mrs. Jane KellyMs. Jane Kelly|
|Divorced||Mrs. Jane Kelly Ms. Jane KellyMs. Jane Johnson (maiden name)|
|Widowed||Mrs. John Kelly* *If you don’t know the widow’s preference, this is
the traditional and preferred formMrs. Jane KellyMs. Jane Kelly
|Addressing a Couple|
|Married, she uses her husband’s name socially||Mr. and Mrs. John Kelly|
Traditionally, a man’s name preceded a woman’s on an envelope adddress,
and his first and surname were not separated (Jane and John Kelly).
Nowadays, the order of the names—whether his name or hers comes
first—does not matter and either way is acceptable. The exception is
when one member of the couple ‘outranks’ the other—the one with the
higher rank is always listed first.
Married, she prefers Ms.
|Mr. John Kelly and Ms. Jane Kelly
Ms. Jane Kelly and Mr. John Kelly
*Do not link Ms. to the husband’s name:
Mr. and Ms.John Kelly is incorrect
|Married, informal address||Jane and John Kelly
John and Jane Kelly
|Married, she uses maiden name||Mr. John Kelly and Ms. Jane Johnson
Ms. Jane Johnson and Mr. John KellyIf you can’t fit the names on one line:
Mr. John Kelly
and Ms. Jane Johnson
*Note the indent, either name may be used first
|Unmarried, living together||Mr. John Kelly
Ms. Jane Johnson
Note: Use two lines, do not indent and do not link the names with ‘and’. Either name may be used first.
|A woman who outranks her husband:
elected office, military rank
|The Honorable Jane Kelly and Mr. John KellyIf you can’t fit both names on one line (note indent):
The Honorable Jane Kelly
and Mr. John Kelly
|A woman who outranks her husband:
professional or educational degree
|Dr. Jane Kelly and Mr. John Kelly|
|Both are doctors (PhD or medical) and use the same last name||The Doctors Kelly (omit first names)
Drs. Jane and John Kelly / Drs. John and Jane Kelly
Dr. John Kelly and Dr. Jane Kelly / Dr. Jane Kelly and Dr. John Kelly
|Both are doctors (PhD or medical), she uses her maiden name||Dr. Jane Johnson and Dr. John Kelly
Dr. John Kelly and Dr. Jane Johnson
|Woman||Ms. is the default form of address, unless you know positively that a woman wishes to be addressed as Mrs.|
|Professional designations—use only for business||Jane Kelly, CPA|
|Note: Do not use Ms. or Mr. if using a professional designation.
Socially, drop the professional designation and use Mr., Ms., or Mrs.: Ms. Jane Kelly
Attorneys and some court officials
|Jane Kelly, Esquire|
|Note: If using Esquire, do not use Ms. or Mr.
In conversation or socially, ‘Esquire’ is not used; use Mr. or Ms.: Ms. Jane Kelly
|Attorney at Law||Ms. Jane Kelly
Attorney at Law
|This is an alternative to ‘Esquire’ for attorneys. Use Mr. or Ms. and use two lines with no indent.|