Ms. vs. Mrs. – What’s the Difference?

Using the correct title when writing a letter is a sign of respect, and it can avoid embarrassment for both you and your addressee.

The only problem is that there are many titles from which to choose, and it is not always clear which one is most appropriate.

Titles for women, in particular, are confusing for many writers. When writing to a man, you can usually address him as Mr. and not worry about it. For women, though, the choice is much more difficult—you have to decide whether to use Miss, Ms., Mrs., or ma’am.

What is the Difference Between Ms. and Mrs.?

In this post, I will compare Ms. vs. Mrs. I will outline the appropriate contexts in which to use each of these titles, and I will use each of hem in a few example sentences.

Also, I will show you a memory tool that can help you decide whether to use Mrs. or Ms. in your own writing.

When to Use Ms.

ms mrs missWhat does Ms. mean? Ms. is a neutral title for a woman, regardless of whether or not she is married. Ms. is the female equivalent of the male Mr.

Just as Mr. can be used for both married and unmarried men, Ms. can be used for both married and unmarried women. Ms. should also be followed by the person’s surname, like Ms. Frizzle.

It is important to note, however, that Ms. is not the same as Miss, which is a title for a young, unmarried woman. Ms. is pronounced mizz, so that it rhymes with fizz, when spoken out loud.

For example,

  • Battison graded very harshly at the start of the term, but relaxed her standards when she realized that no one liked her.
  • Knowles married Mr. Carter, but decided to keep her own surname.
  • Arbus, a New York native, started photographing street style in the 1980s for The Village Voice as a way to meet the cool downtown crowd. –The New York Times

In business writing, it is best to default to Ms. By doing this, it doesn’t matter if a woman is married, divorced, temporarily separated, etc., because this title is used regardless of those circumstances.

However, if it is known that the woman is married, it is perfectly acceptable to use Mrs. (see below).

When to Use Mrs.

ms versus mrs What does Mrs. mean? Mrs. is a title for a married woman. This is the appropriate title to use when addressing married women with whom you are not on a first name basis.

Mrs. is always followed by the woman’s surname, like Mrs. Robinson.

For example,

  • Our English teacher, Mrs. Platte, brought her husband to the varsity basketball game.
  • Ellie addressed the Christmas card to Mr. & Mrs. Harmon and dropped it in the mailbox.
  • Clinton’s friends at the Justice Department chose not to subpoena Mrs. Clinton’s friends from the State Department and the campaign. –National Review

Other Titles

Ms. and Mrs. are not the only titles for women in English. Ma’am signals respect when the woman you are addressing is older than you, but it is normally reserved for spoken conversation. Mrs. or Ms., followed by the woman’s surname, would be a better choice in a letter or e-mail.

If a woman has another title, like Dr., always use it unless specifically instructed otherwise, especially in professional contexts.

Trick to Remember the Difference

Define mrs and define msMs. is the safest choice when you are unsure whether a woman is married. Even some married women prefer Ms.

Use Mrs. when you know for sure a woman is married. Use Ms. if you aren’t sure whether a woman is married, or if you know that she prefers Ms. over Mrs. Use Miss only for young, unmarried women, and even then Ms. is probably a better choice in formal settings.

Since Mrs. is used for married women, and both Mrs. and marriage contain an R, you should always be able to remember when to use Mrs.

Summary

Is it Ms. or Mrs.? English has many feminine titles.

  • Miss is usually reserved for young, unmarried women.
  • is used for married women.
  • can be used for either married or unmarried women, and should always be used if you are unsure of the person’s marital status.

You can remember Mrs. vs. Ms. because Mrs. refers to a woman who is married, and both words contain the letter R.