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When should I use Ms, Mrs, ma’am, Mr? Improve your English writing skills

In this English speaking Lesson with Michelle you would learn the correct use of Personal Titles in written English. Four different titles are commonly used for women: Miss, Mrs., Ms., and ma’am. Knowing when to use each title can be difficult. Watch this complete lesson and improve your English writing skills.

The four titles we’re going to talk about are commonly used with adults, regardless of their profession, and can indicate both gender and marital status. These titles are:

  • (short for “mister”)
  • (pronounced “missiz”; originally short for “mistress”)
  • Miss
  • (pronounced “mizz”; originally a combination of “Mrs.” and “Miss”)

Use of ‘Miss’

Use ‘Miss’ with a complete name when you address a card to a young girl or young unmarried woman.

  • Miss Miriam Garcia
  • Miss Naomi Rodriguez
  • Miss Rosa Gutierrez

Use ‘Miss’ without a name when speaking to young female service workers.

  • Excuse me, Miss.
  • Could you help me, Miss?
  • Thank you, Miss.

This is appropriate for servers in restaurants, clerks working in a store, receptionists, salespeople, etc. Please note that is appropriate ONLY if the service worker is your age or younger than you.

Use of ‘ma’am’

Use ‘ma’am’ without a name when speaking to older female service workers. This shows respect for their age.

  • I beg your pardon, ma’am.
  • Could you help me, ma’am?
  • I would appreciate your help, ma’am.

Use ‘ma’am’ when you are speaking to a woman who is older than you or to a woman who has a position of authority and when you don’t know the woman’s name.

  • I’m very pleased to meet you, ma’am.
  • Thank you for agreeing to see me, ma’am?
  • Yes, ma’am. I understand.

Use of ‘Mrs.’

The title ‘Mrs.’ is used for married women. If a man introduces his wife to you, if the woman is younger than you, and if the man tells you his wife’s name, only the name is usually acceptable.

  • Mr. Smith: This is my wife, Lucy.
  • You: It’s a pleasure to meet you, Lucy.

If a man introduces his wife to you and if the woman is older than you, use Mrs. and the husband’s surname.

  • Mr. Smith: This is my wife, Lucy.
  • You: It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Smith

Use of ‘Ms.’

If a woman is unmarried, but not young, she might not wish to call attention to her unmarried status. In this case, you may want to use the title, Ms. This title can be used for both unmarried and married women!

  • Ms. Miriam Garcia
  • Ms. Naomi Rodriguez
  • Ms. Rosa Gutierrez

If you are speaking to or referring to a woman and you know the woman’s surname, use Ms. and the surname if (a) the woman has a position of authority, (b) you don’t know the woman’s marital status, or (c) the woman is your age or older than you:

  • I have an appointment with Ms. Garcia
  • Ms. Rodriguez is the District Manager.
  • I need to speak with you, Ms. Gutierrez

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