How do you address a widow? I recently sent a note of condolence to a woman whose husband had died. Because I didn’t know her well, I guessed about how to address the envelope. I used this style:
Ms. Grace Tomlinson
When she wrote back to thank me, I noticed her return address. She called herself:
Mrs. Ralph Tomlinson
When I write to her again, I will address her envelope “Mrs. Ralph Tomlinson” since that is her preference.
At work, a woman rarely uses her husband’s first name to identify herself. However, if you write to donors, constituents, members, patients, or customers, pay attention to the way they refer to themselves. At the beginning of your relationship with them, you can ask them about their preference for the title Miss, Ms., or Mrs. and other details of their name. If a woman uses her husband’s name, write to her that way even if he dies. When and if she decides to stop using his name, you can follow her lead.
Generally speaking the most common way tends to be Mrs. (missus) followed by the woman’s married name (if she did in fact change her last name to her spouse’s). Ms. is less common, but might be the case if it’s been many years since her spouse’s passing. However, Ms. is often used for divorcees, so a widow might find this offensive if you are not careful.
For other posts I have written about condolences, read on from here down.