« Correct This Sign | Main | Dear Manager, Please Stop Doing This! »

December 09, 2015


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


One example I didn't see here is when the woman holds a professional title and her partner does not and they don't share a last name. I have had many friends ask how to address formal invitations to us. I don't care if my name and title are first or not. But it really grinds my gears if they call me Ms. (I'm Dr. either use the correct title or none at all) or when they address me by my husband's name or him by mine. By all means don't call us Mr. and Mrs.

First names for the greeting are fine.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Thanks for mentioning your situation. Your names would be correct like this example:

Dear Dr. Jones and Mr. White,
Dear Robyn and Dan,

Dr. Robyn Jones and Mr. Dan White
Dr. Robyn Jones
Mr. Dan White
Robyn Jones and Dan White

When people know your husband better than they know you, they can put his name first.


Stephanie Lux

One of my pet peeves is being identified by my husband's name. Mr. and Mrs. John Smith is grating, but Mrs. John Smith is just plain disrespectful. You mentioned this when you discussed traditional address, and I agree that it can be very irritating. I had no idea this still existed until I started opening cards after my wedding.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi Stephanie,

Yes, isn't it surprising that old-fashioned greetings still appear in today's messages?

Congratulations on your marriage!


Mina Leila

Good morning Lynn,

Thanks a lot for your advices.
I have heard that using the word (in certain European country like France) "Dear" is really unprofessional. Could you please confirm?

Thank you

Judy Meadows

Is there a rule for the order of names after "Dear?" It appears to be random...sometimes the woman's, sometime the man's.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi Judy,

I answered your question in the blog post above. Look at the paragraph that starts with "In messages to two people."


Henning Wolf

Dear Lynn,

could you tell me how to address someone in a formal letter if both me and the person have the same academic title? Or, a bit more complicated, if I am a professor and the other "just" holds a PhD?

Best wishes and thank you very much in advance,

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi Henning,

I would follow the norms of your profession. If the other person's Ph.D. points to the use of Dr., use it. If it doesn't, use Mr. or Ms.

However, if you are going to refer to the two of you in the letter, I suggest using Dr. for both, rather than pulling rank.

I hope that answer helps. Perhaps I have missed something.


Henning Wolf

Dear Lynn,

Thank you so much for your prompt reply! The full situation: I am professor, submitting an article to a journal with two editors-in-chief who are both professors (I saw this later, first I thought it's one prof and one dr). One from the UK, one from the US. I have met the UK one years ago(he is quite famous) and he offered to use his first name (I was still a PhD student at that time, he won't remember).

Should I address them with their first names? Or "Dear professor ..., dear professor ..."? The more famous one with first name and the other with professor seemed strange to me.

Thank you so much in advance for your advice,

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi Henning,

Be consistent. Use either of the choices below.

Dear Professors Jones and Smith:

Dear James and Susan:

I believe it's better to err on the side of formality than familiarity, but it's really a choice for you.


Henning Wolf

Dear Lynn,

great, thank you very much! I didn't expect to receive so good and quick feedback from a website I just come across via google...

Best wishes,

Sharon Naylor

I received a business letter with the greeting Dear Mrs. Sharon: This struck me as an inappropriate salutation, as I have never seen Mrs. used before a woman's first name. What are the guidelines for this?

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi Sharon,

You are correct that it is not standard to use "Dear" with a first name. I am guessing that the person who used it is from a region of the country in which people use courtesy titles with first names, like "Miss Lynn." Or perhaps the individual mistakenly thought Sharon was your last name.



Hi Lynn,

I'm addressing some informal e-vites to a group of people, and I'm typically using "John & Jane Doe" as the name on the virtual envelope. But, when there is a doctor as the husband, and a wife with the same last name, how do I address it? Do I need to include Dr., or is it informal enough to just use both of their first names? I'm not using any Mr. and Mrs. on anyone's, so don't want it to get confusing that way.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi Maddie,

If you are using first names and no courtesy titles, then do the same when someone has the job of doctor, minister, senator, or professor. In other words, be consistent.



Hi Lynn,

I work for a law firm in the word processing department and I was presented with the problem of how to create a salutation for a household where we do not know anyone's first name or the even makeup of the household. In this case, the recipients were The Kenyons, but we do not know if the Kenyons are a family, a couple (and if a couple, we do not know their genders), or perhaps two people living together with the same last name (siblings? parent & child?). Addressing the envelope as "The Kenyons" is fine, but what about the letter salutation? "Dear The Kenyons" seems odd.


Hi lyn, how do you address someone with multiple professional titles. Let's say, he/she has 4 titles?

Elizabeth Waters

Hi Lyn,

Should middle initials be used when addressing envelopes? I'm cleaning up our database and would like to set a standard.

Thank you very much.

Kim Simpson

How do I address a doctor and a senator that are married? The doctor is affiliated with our organization. Do I address the doctor first?
Dr. Mary Smith and Senator John Michaels or
Senator John Michaels and Dr. Mary Smith? Or do I refer to him as Mr.?

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi Kim,

Because the doctor is affiliated with your organization, her name comes first. Use her husband's title (senator).


Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Elizabeth, that's an interesting question. I would suggest that your standard be to use the name the individual provides. One woman may be Lynn A. Roberts, and another may be Lynn Ann Roberts--NOT Lynn A. Roberts.

Also, I don't think dropping middle initials would make sense. There may be many Juan Martinezes or Tom Joneses in your database, and retaining the middle initial would be important.

If I missed the point of your question, please let me know.


Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi Jane,

If I could easily determine the individual's primary professional title, I would use that. Otherwise, I would contact the individual's office and ask for advice.


Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi D,

That's an interesting dilemma. My first approach would be to do internet research on the Kenyons to see what I could learn. With no additional clues, I would use "Dear Kenyons."

I apologize for overlooking your question back in December. I hope you came up with a workable solution.



Hello! How do you address two people (in a relationship) that each go by Mx? Is there a plural for this honorarium?

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi Abby,

My educated guess is Mxes. That's what I would use as a plural, similar to Mses. However, I have not researched this question.

"Honorarium" is a payment. I believe you intended to use "honorific."


Emma Bara

Hi Lynn,

How do I address a man with a double surname that is NOT hyphenated? Do I use both names or just go with the last one. I do not know this person.

Many thanks

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi Emma,

I am sorry for the delay in responding to you.

The answer appears above in the section Answers to Frequently Asked Questions:

2. If the person I am writing to uses two last names, do I use both or only one of them in the greeting?

You use both names in the greeting. Example:

Dear Mr. Garcia Lopez,

Again, I apologize for the delay. I was on vacation.


Harriet Gardner

Hello, Lynn—

Thank you for your invaluable information!

I need to send business holiday cards to clients, and in some cases, I have briefly met the principals of the business, but I am much more familiar with the office manager and staff, with whom I have regular contact. Usually, meetings are with a business manager, CFO or other person in authority, and contracts are signed by these persons, but it is the owners who ultimately pay for our services.

Many of my clients have modern, open-space offices with open-door executive offices and a conference room directly off the reception area, so the card will be posted available to everyone.

How do I address the card and envelope in this case, so as to recognize the stature of the owners, without offending the manager who signs for my services and does all the work on our projects?

Many thanks, in advance, for your help!

Kind regards,

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi Harriet,

The stress-free approach is to send two cards: one to the owner and one to the manager. You can't be sure that either one of them will post your card. So if they are the audiences you want to acknowledge, send two.

As a corporate trainer, I often have taken this approach: one card to the HR manager and one to the training manager or training coordinator. For some clients where I had many key contacts, I sent cards to all of them. Yes, it costs a few dollars more, but it's an easy gesture that builds relationships.

Let me know what you decide to do.


Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)