My email inbox continues to fill up with questions about salutations. Frequently, the questions focus on married women and the appropriate courtesy title to use when typing their names in letter greetings and addresses.
Here is the official word, which I have adapted from Emily Post’s Etiquette, 17th Edition, written by Emily’s great-granddaughter Peggy Post.
If a woman named Jane Wilson marries Fernando Gomez, she may choose to call herself any of these:
- Ms. Jane Wilson
- Ms. Jane Gomez
- Mrs. Jane Gomez
- Mrs. Fernando Gomez
- Mrs. Jane Wilson-Gomez
- Ms. Jane Wilson-Gomez
- Mrs. Jane Wilson Gomez
- Ms. Jane Wilson Gomez
- Mrs. Jane W. Gomez (with W for Wilson)
- Ms. Jane W. Gomez (with W for Wilson)
Peggy Post says nothing about the man’s name. That absence leads me to believe that even if Fernando uses only Gomez as his last name, Jane can still be called Mrs. or Ms. Jane Wilson-Gomez. Apparently I was wrong in thinking it would be impossible to be Mrs. Wilson-Gomez if there were no Mr. Wilson-Gomez. I guess I could legitimately call myself Mrs. Lynn Gaertner-Johnston even though my husband’s name is Michael Johnston.
If you know the title your Jane prefers, use it. If you don’t know, ask her. When the woman’s preference is unknown, the standard courtesy title in business writing is "Ms."
Note: I am receiving more questions, both in email and comments here, than I can answer. You are welcome to ask a question, but I am likely to answer it only if I can do so quickly or I think your topic is of wide enough interest to take the time to elaborate. Thanks for understanding.
(Ms. Lynn Gaertner-Johnston)