Dear Mrs… or is it Ms. or Miss?: How to Address Women in Letters

Question: “I’m writing an e-mail right now and I do not know if that lady is married or not. How should I call her? Mrs. Miss or Madam?”

Answer: This is a confusing issue even for native English speakers. The response is simple:

  • Mrs. is to address married women.
  • Ms. is to address women who are unmarried or women who choose to use it. Believe it or not, some women don’t think they should have to identify their marital status to strangers. In fact, one reader from illustrates this cultural point below:

But why should women have to let that be known? After all, men do not! Let’s show equality in this idea of using titles! Therefore, to be equal and politically correct, we should all use Ms. for women.

This may not be extremely common, but this is proof that it exists.

  • Ms. and Miss are interchangeable, but a key pronunciation note is that Ms. has the “z” sound on the end of it.
  • Widows usually prefer Mrs. while divorced women tend to use Ms. Here’s an interesting discussion on the topic:

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  • Bert says:

    Your answer could be improved.
    The question was about an unknown marital status.
    You addressed situations where women are clearly married, where women are clearly unmarried, and where “women choose to use” something (Ms.), but you did not address the situation where the marital status is unknown and the woman’s choice to use or not use Ms. is also unknown.

    • Pamela Tefft says:

      Things may have changed, but 37 years ago I became a widow an the proper way to address a widow used to be Ms, not Mrs. That’s how I was addressed. Ms was not a choice if you were married or single but that you were widowed. Miss= unmarried Mrs= married Ms= widowed

  • Pamela Tefft says:

    Also it seems more confusing using Ms as married or unmarried or widowed. Why change things? Mrs= married Miss= single Ms= widowed. That seems the proper way an less confusing. Instead of leaving people still wondering if the lady is single, married or widowed. I can see after a divorce the lady again becomes Miss but not a choice when married or unmarried to choose Ms, in that case why not just miss then? Why try covering up the fact your married an have a choice to use Mrs or Ms? Doesnt make sense. Using however you want is what makes it confusing!

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    • Agnieszka Tkacz says:

      Hey! You can write: Dear Madam 😉 or Dear Ms + surname