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How to Address a Married Woman

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:

    1. Ms. Jane Wilson
    2. Ms. Jane Gomez
    3. Mrs. Jane Gomez
    4. Mrs. Fernando Gomez
    5. Mrs. Jane Wilson-Gomez
    6. Ms. Jane Wilson-Gomez
    7. Mrs. Jane Wilson Gomez
    8. Ms. Jane Wilson Gomez
    9. Mrs. Jane W. Gomez (with W for Wilson)
    10. 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.”

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

2 comments on “How to Address a Married Woman”

  • Is it proper when sending invitations for a wedding or baby shower to address a married women asMrs Edward Duncan or should she be addressed as Mrs Grace Duncan. A dear friend of mine is having a baby shower for her daughter,
    what is the proper addressing of the invitation, using the above named person.

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