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Archive for December, 2015

I received a note addressed to M Chris Buchanan, not Mrs. or Ms.  
Is using M proper?
        — Ms. Chris Buchanan

I have read there is a rule that one never signs one’s signature with an honorific — Mr., Mrs., Judge, Senator, Captain, Dr., etc. But I sign my e-mails Mr. Robin Thompson so people when they reply know to address me as Mr. Thompson rather than Ms. Thompson.
Is that O.K.?
        — Mr. Robin Thompson

Dear Ms. Buchanan and Mr. Thompson:
     The issues here are “how to address someone as Mr./Mrs./Ms./Miss when you don’t know their gender?”  #1 & #2 below – and – “How to specify your gender when you know they will want to know it?” #3.
     1) Though not traditionally formal, when you don’t know the gender and you want to address someone, address them by their (Given Name)+(Family Name):

Chris Buchanan
(Address)
Dear Chris Buchanan,

Robin Thompson
(Address)
Dear Robin Thompson,

     2) If you want to formally address someone and use Mr., Mrs., Ms., Miss … and don’t want to do #1, you have to ask them to share that information: call their office. That takes time, but is the only thing you can do. If you are trying to start an important conversation, what could be more important than getting their name right?
     3) With regard to not giving oneself an honorific, I still advise when you sign your signature never give yourself an honorific: just sign your name.
But it is O.K. to type your name at the end of an e-mail as Mr./Mrs./Ms./Miss (Given Name)+(Family Name) to someone you have not met – or – type your name as Mr./Mrs./Ms./Miss (Given Name)+(Family Name) in the signature block (above which you actually sign) on the letter.
      Others will want to know – and it is both useful and considerate to provide that information.
– Robert Hickey

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I am a school board representative who received a hand-written note from the school librarian asking me to read to a class. The envelope was addressed to M Robin Buchanan, not Mrs. or Ms.
Is using M to address a woman a proper salutation? I understood M is to be used to address men.
I thought perhaps the librarian did not know if I was a male or female, although that information would be easy to find.
Should I be concerned by her lack of consideration to the person she is writing to or worry that she is using improper salutations?   Or do I something new to learn?    Thank you for your clarification.
Best regards,
    — Mrs. Robin Buchanan

Dear Ms. Buchanan:
     1) The issue here is ‘how to address you formally?’  I suspect they wrote M Robin Buchanan … just because didn’t which honorific you preferred … or didn’t know your gender … and were avoiding the issue. I advise if one is writing someone and are unsure of how he or she prefers to be addressed — call and ask. I find no one minds being asked how to be addressed respectfully.
     2) As to the question of ‘How do I present my name to others?’  …. today I observe that married women use various honorifics depending on the situation.
Ms. Robin Buchanan …  where their marital status is not an issue but you want to specify an honorific. Doing so implies you are not automatically on a first-name basis and prefer be formally addressed in conversation as Ms. Buchanan.  Many women use this form at work.
 Mrs. (husband’s first name) Buchanan …. in very formal situations or when you are involved as a spouse/part of a couple. This definitely implies that others will call you Mrs. Surname.  Widows continue to use this form when formally addressed as part of a couple.
 Mrs. Robin Buchanan is often the choice of women in the context of being a mom — dealing with school teachers (as you do), pediatricians, etc.  This form provides the given name for those with whom they would be on a first-name basis: this form provides information for others to address them by (First name) or as Mrs. (Surname).  Part of presenting your name is giving guidance to the other person as to what you want to be called in subsequent conversation.
[Another note: Traditional etiquette references state that using Mrs. (Woman’s Given name) + (Family name) is the form used by a divorced woman, who wants to keep using her former husband’s family name, but can no longer use Mrs. (husband’s given name) (Family Name) because her former husband might have remarried and there would be a new Mrs. (husband’s given name) (Family Name).Thus, she uses her given name with Mrs.  But some still married women don’t care what was ‘traditional’ in etiquette books and like to use Mrs. … thus including their marital status with their given name.
 Robin Buchanan …. is casual. You also use this form when signing your own name: One never gives oneself an honorific.
So to me — you are all of those names at different times. You choose the one that’s right for the circumstance.
For formal etiquette geeks like me Mrs. Robin Buchanan is the traditional form for a divorced woman who was formerly married to someone named “Buchanan” …. but had kept using the “Buchanan” perhaps because that’s the family name of her kids, or for some other reason.  BUT … one of the basics of forms of address is that your name belongs to you …. and EVERYONE is entitled to be addressed as they prefer!
    — Robert Hickey

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