How to address a woman if you don’t know if she’s married?

How to address a woman if you don't know if she's married
Use Ms. in almost any circumstance, married or unmarried. Never assume anyone’s marital status and always be courteous and polite. Consider the context and situation you are in, and use first name only when you are in a casual, informal situation.

1. When to Use Mrs.

If you know that a woman is married, it may be appropriate to use Mrs. However, if you do not know if a woman is married or divorced, then you should avoid using Mrs until you know for certain.

If a woman is married and has taken her husband’s name, then you can refer to her by her full name, her last name, or, if addressing both the husband and wife, you can use the husband’s full name.

For example, if the woman’s husband’s name is John Smith, you may refer to her as Mrs. Smith or Mrs. Jane Smith (assuming Jane is her first name. When addressing both husband and wife, you could say Mr. & Mrs. John Smith.

2. When to Use Miss

Use Miss for unmarried woman under 30
Use Miss for unmarried woman under 30

The title of Miss is generally used for young girls under the age of 18. However, Miss can also be used for young unmarried women up to the age of 30.

If you know that a woman is unmarried, then a proper way to address her is Miss, presuming she is younger than 30 or so. You can use Miss before a woman’s first, last, or full name, depending on how you want to address her.

Unlike Mrs., you can use Miss before a first name only. You can, of course, use it before a last name or a full name as well.

3. When to Use Ms.

This is a neutral title that does not necessarily reveal whether a woman is married or not. Ms. is generally used for adult women who are unmarried and over the age of 30. It is also used for divorced women (if they choose to return to their maiden name or use this title) and even married women if this is their preferred title.

You can use Ms. (pronounced mizz) in several circumstances, including when addressing an unmarried woman. This is the correct title to use if you are unsure of a woman’s marital status.

For some women, their preferred title is Ms., even if they are married. Therefore, if you are unsure how to address a woman, this is the best title to avoid offending someone or assuming whether or not they are married.

4. When to Use Mx.

Mx. (pronounced mix) is a gender-neutral title that can be used instead of Mr., Ms., or Mrs. For people who do not identify with a particular gender; this is the appropriate title to use.

This can be used to address anyone of any gender or marital status. However, it is not usually the first title one uses when addressing women unless you are specifically told to. If someone tells you this is how they wish to be addressed, you should always respect their wishes and try to avoid calling them by any other prefixes.

5. Which Title to Use if You Don’t Know Marital Status?

girl raising her hands
Girl raising her hands

Use Ms. If you are addressing a woman and you are unsure of their marital status. Since it’s generic, it can be used for any woman, married, single, or divorced.

If you speak to a younger female, you can also use Miss, though you never want to assume their age, as this title is typically saved for younger females.

You probably won’t want to use Mrs. if you are unsure if they are married, as this is generally only used for married women, though divorced women can also use this title.

You may use Mx. if you do not want to assume gender identity and are also unsure of marital status. This is a neutral honorific that can be used in many situations.

6. Ask Them Directly

When in doubt, ask! If you are unsure of a person’s personal preference or proper title, then asking is the best way to avoid offending someone. Ensure to ask respectfully and should never just assume.

Taking the time to ask a person what title they prefer shows consideration and respect. It shows you care to know more about them and that you don’t want to offend them. This gesture can really go a long way.

7. Use Their Professional Title

Whether a woman is married or not, if they have a professional title, you may want to use that instead. They’ve achieved this formal title through hard work, and some prefer to be known by it.

An appropriate time to use a professional title of a woman is when you are addressing her in a business letter or an email. If you are writing an email to your professor, for example, you may call them Professor Smith or Doctor Smith if they have their doctorate degree.

8. Consider The Situation

woman in a wheelchair
Woman in a wheelchair

Consider the context in which you are addressing a woman when considering the title. For example, when addressing envelopes for wedding invitations or other, then you should use Ms.

If you don’t know a woman’s name but want to address her, then you can use Miss instead of her name. This shows respect without being too forward.

You should only use Mrs. if you are sure the woman is married. Mrs. is only used for married women, though historically, this hasn’t always been the case.

9. Use Their First Name

In more casual and informal situations, you may use a woman’s first name to address them. If they are younger and you want to show respect, you may include Miss in front of their name. If they are older, you may use Ms.

You should only use their first name if you are comfortable with them. This is a sign of familiarity and warmth.

10. Avoid Assumptions

It is important not to make assumptions about someone’s marital status. Doing this can come across as disrespectful or even offensive.

As I have stated before, if you are unsure about marital status, either ask or use Ms. so as not to disrespect anyone. If you are going to ask, you should do so in the correct way, meaning without assumptions or judgment.

11. Be Polite And Respectful

Using the correct title is a sign of respect and politeness. It is important to be mindful of this, as it can lead to better communication and build stronger relationships.

Not to mention, in certain settings, it comes across as professional and respectful. You always want to ensure that you are courteous and kind and never assume anything of others.

Margaret Dunn

Margaret is a passionate writer based in Costa Rica, though she was raised in the southeastern US. Being from the South, good manners and proper etiquette were ingrained in her from a young age and she has always been fascinated with etiquette in different settings and places. When she is not writing, you can find her exercising, reading, or spending time with her family at the beach.

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