2 petty things

Yes, these complaints are petty, but here they are nonetheless:

1. Please don’t address me as “Mrs.” in your cover letter.

“Mrs.” refers to a married woman (and even then, plenty of them don’t use it). I am not married. And if I were, I would be unnerved that you somehow knew that. Either way, I wonder why you’re assuming it.

The term you’re looking for is “Ms.” It’s the female equivalent of “Mr.” — in other words, it makes marital status irrelevant.

I’m not rejecting anyone over this, just noting that it’s mildly weird. Also weird is that the people most likely to do this are male recent grads.

(For more on this topic, this post over at Clue Wagon has lots of input on this in the comments.)

2. It’s not a great idea to apply for a job with me and then add me to the email list you use for mass-circulation of announcements promoting your band, your fundraiser, your side business, your inspirational story, and/or the news article you found interesting this morning. If you do this, it will annoy me and make me wonder why you thought this was appropriate.

If your email program is automatically adding everyone you’ve ever emailed to your “contacts” list, either change your settings or — even better — never send a mass email to your full contacts list.

I told you they were petty.

{ 27 comments… read them below }

  1. Laurie*

    Dear Mrs. Manager, this is so petty. Would you like to attend my Pampered Chef Dove Party Chocolates party next Tuesday?

  2. Ms. S.*

    I'm married, and I don't use "Mrs.", nor did I take my husband's name. I always use "Ms." and I teach my students to do so. I explain that "Mrs. S." is my mother, and I explain the reasons why they should always use "Ms." to address a woman (it makes age irrelevant, too). Still yet, I have students continue to address me as "Mrs." in person and in emails. I just correct them politely–but seriously, is it that difficult? All of this is to say that I do not think it is petty. Addressing someone properly is important. (And yes, it is mostly male students who have gotten this wrong. I don't know, actually, if a female student has ever used "Mrs." to address me.)

  3. Evil HR Lady*

    I'm even more petty. I am married and I did take my husband's last name. However, I am NOT Mrs. Suzanne Lucas. I am Mrs. Jason Lucas or Mrs. Lucas. I am Ms. Suzanne Lucas.

    In order to be Mrs. Suzanne Lucas (according to Miss Manners), I would have to get divorced.

    Ms. is a far better term to use in business correspondence.

    1. Jamie*

      THANK YOU! I love Miss Manners (authors – be it books or blogs – when informative, smart, and snarky win my blind allegiance.)

      Mrs. means “wife of.” I too took my husbands name – so if you send us an invitation to a gala you can please address it to Mr. and Mrs. Hisfirstname Ourlastname.

      At my work my awesome husband is pretty irrelevant and his name doesn’t come up unless he did something hysterical over the weekend and I’m mocking him (with love) to a friend.

      Ms. works in every situation.

  4. Evil HR Lady*

    And Mrs. Ruttiemann, why didn't I get invited to your Pampered chef party? I need some new cookie sheets and perhaps some overpriced bowls.

  5. Deirdre HR Maven*

    Or a widow.

    I didn't change my name when I got married and it annoys me when people assume that I am a MRS. Who is teaching people this crap?

  6. Kerry*

    Where I live, it's not just the recent male grads. It's every-freakin-body.

    When I am queen, there will a tiny electric shock delivered whenever someone calls me Mrs. Not enough to kill them…just enough to make them pee their pants or something.

    At my kid's school, the teachers are ONLY allowed to be called Miss or Mrs. It's a regular public school. It blows my mind.

  7. class-factotum*

    Kerry, that is just wrong. Especially when you consider that these kids' parents then introduce me to their third-graders by my first name. Is this the parents rebelling against what the school is doing?

    If so, take it up with the school, honey. I'm not the one setting the policy. I'm already ticked off enough about not being able to park in the street overnight or put yard waste in my trash here in the Great State of It's ILLEGAL.

    But yeah. Teachers should be allowed to decide how they are to be addressed, although I am in favor of some degree of formality between children and adults. Yes, my dad was in the military. Can you tell?

  8. Kerry*

    I agree that kids should call the teachers by titles. In fact, the teacher calls herself by her first name when talking to me, and that feels uncomfortable to me.

    But I think the title itself is up to the teacher. If she says she's a Mrs., then she's a Mrs. If she says she's a Ms., then she's a Mrs.

    I don't care what other women call themselves—but everyone should have a choice.

  9. BossLady*


    Your comment made me pee my pants laughing with your comment. Love it.
    When you are queen I will help you put those shock collars on each and every offender.

    But I need to add, that I live and work in a very liberal, artsy field in a blue state and I have in my office YOUNG WOMEN who didn't know about "Ms."

    Touching on the second part of Kerry's comment, is it possible that its the primary schools that are screwing this up?

  10. Evil HR Lady*


    I forgot about the widowed thing. Yes, that too. Which reminds me, when someone asked my mother if she'd ever considered divorce she said, "Divorce? No. Murder, yes."


    (And before anyone freaks out, she was JOKING, people, joking.)

  11. Rebecca*

    Well, ladies, are you the property of your husband or are you still owned by your father? Society needs to know. Don't inconvenience them with ambiguity.

  12. jmkenrick*

    It unnerves me when people call me Mrs. Kenrick, because it makes me think of being married to my Dad. Weird.

    On a similar note, I always address everyone in work settings by their last names unless they say otherwise, but just yesterday two people told me it annoyed them because it makes them feel old. I thought the opposite was supposed to be offensive.

  13. Julie O'Malley*

    Rebecca, I love you.

    All the hard work that went into the creation of the non-marital-status-revealing "Ms" seems to have been lost.

    "These kids today"(aka whippersnappers) think Ms. is simply the abbreviation for Miss.

    It's the Kardashian-ization of America, I tell you!

  14. Kimberley*

    I'm a Ms. I'm a married Ms. who didn't change her name. I was willing to change my name if my Mr. was also willing to change his name at the same time. He wasn't, we have different names. Get over it people.

    Kerry you will make a great queen. I would be honoured to be a princess while you are queen!

    I wonder why no men have commeneted yet?

  15. Tony Gates*

    I saw your post on Twitter (pretty effective way to get people to your blog, btw – I'll have to use it!)

    I'm "guy," snd my preective os that I really think the term "Mrs." is a bit antiquated. I've always uses "Ms." It just seems more respectful. The "Mrs Tony Gates" thing make it all about me, and causes the woman to lose her identity.

    Historically, the term "Mrs" was actually a contraction for "Mistress." Hmmm….

    My wife, incidentally, kept her own last name and I couldn't have been happier.

    I'm a big fan of "Ms."

  16. Kerry*

    "It's the Kardashian-ization of America" is my new catchphrase.

    I actually just read an article in the Minnesota Historical Society Quarterly. In 1971, a married woman in Minnesota actually had to go all the way to the state supreme court to be ALLOWED to use her birth name. I think a lot of people are cluefree about how things used to be for women not so long ago.

    If everyone watched Mad Men, we'd all be called Ms.

  17. Ask a Manager*

    Kerry: Yes!!! Watching Mad Men has given me a much more profound appreciation for what my mom's generation did for us. I had thought I already got it, but OMG I did not.

  18. Tiffany Loudermilk*

    I'm a Mrs. I changed my name the day I got married. I'm old-fashioned that way. But, if addressing a letter to someone I don't know (or don't know their marital status), I always use Ms. If I'm not sure, I'll just address it to their full name, and omit the Ms/Mrs/Mr entirely (helps with gender-ambiguous names too!) Why would you go any other way?

    You know what bugs me? When people, especially teens, call me "miss." As in when I'm walking the dog, "Miss, I like your dog" or "Miss, you dropped a glove." Somehow it feels derogatory. Am I just imagining that? Am I allowed to call teens "young people" if I'm not even 30 yet?

  19. Anonymous*

    AAM, my personal petty thing is assumption of sex. No, I don't mean how much lol! When you're a woman with the name of Chris receiving letters addressing you as Mr. this and Sir that… it's annoying.

    All they have to do is click on my name and picture on the corporate site for the answer to the gender question. The pic leaves no doubt to boy or girl!!

  20. Anonymous*

    The title that bothers me the most is "Ma'am". That word should be removed from conversation altogether.

  21. Anonymous*

    I've been the person who creates donor acknowledgement letters at 3 nonprofits. I've received donor feedback from married women stating that they found "Ms." to be offensive as it was implying they were either single or "too feminist." At one job I was instructed to address people as Jane Smith (no courtesy title), but feedback has come from at least a couple of donors who are probably above age 65 who resent the lack of courtesy title. And my own ethics won't allow me to use "Mrs." unless a donor specifically requests it.

  22. Gem*

    A bit late to this party. But a quick note on the culture divide. I'm British, and old school despite being in my late 20's. I have been taught that Miss is for single ladies, Mrs for the married and Ms denotes a divorced woman or unmarried mothers.

    Having said all that I work internationally. I will forgive being titled Mrs, Ms or even on occasion Mr. But I will correct it with Miss (unless it is in my favour to be considered a man) until the party in the wrong gets it right.

    It is about manners. If you know someones prefered title, then that is the title you should use.

  23. Liz T*

    It makes me smile that I can’t even say, “Mrs. T is my mother”–because she kept her name, too. So it’d have to be “Mrs. T is my grandmother.” :)

    And Rebecca, I get your point that these are almost all just men’s names we’re talking about–my parents didn’t really know what to do, so they just gave me my dad’s name. But I grew up with my name and love it and it’s VERY much a part of who I am–a lot of people call me by my last name instead of my first, and it’s always felt very “me.” My name is mine, and my sister’s, and my aunt’s, not just my dad’s.

  24. Kate*

    I’m the last person in my family with my last name, so I didn’t change it when I get married. What I get a real kick out of is when our neighbors met me first and called my husband Mr. Hutchinson instead of his own last name. It got better when one of them started calling him “Hutch,” which was my dad’s nickname in college.

    I wish that would happen to more men, and then they’d find out what it’s like.

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