should you address hiring managers by their first names?

I can’t tell you how often I address an email to a job candidate using their first name and they respond by calling me “Ms. Green.”

This is weird.

I know people feel like hiring-related communications are a formal thing and that they should formalize it all up. But when someone you’re talking to makes it clear that they’re comfortable with first names — by using yours — it feels odd and out of touch if you continue to call them Mr./Ms. whatever.

You are not a child talking to a grown-up. You’re both adults. It’s okay to use first names.

In fact, in most fields it’s perfectly okay to address the person by a first name right from the start, without waiting for them to do it first. After all, if you were meeting new colleagues on your first day on a job, would you address them as Mr./Ms. ____? In most fields, you would not, and it would be really weird if you did.

And before you argue that when you’re job searching it’s somehow different and more formality is expected, let me ask you if you’d be offended or put off if the hiring manager addressed you by your first name right off the bat. I’m assuming you wouldn’t be. So the only thing making you feel that you’re supposed to use Mr./Ms. are outdated ideas about power dynamics in job searching. And those aren’t a good thing.

But if you can’t bring yourself to listen to me on that, at least make sure that you’re mirroring the same level of formality/informality you see from them — which means using their first name once they use yours.

{ 292 comments… read them below }

  1. Stephanie*

    I have defaulted to saying Dr. So-and-So when I interviewed for staff jobs at universities in the past. But even in some of those instances, the hiring manager/faculty would refer to herself was Persephone, not Dr. Smith.

    1. Jen*

      Random note, but my doctors (all in the same practice but in different specialties) have recently been referring to themselves by their first names and always sign emails using their first names. I like it! As a patient, it makes me feel more consulted and respected in my own care. I know my doctor is a surgeon and it doesn’t diminish my respect of him to call him Brandon.

      1. Adam*

        I’ve always wondered that if I had spent all that time and money in school to become a doctor if I might become a bit provincial about the “Dr.” title. I don’t think I would have, but I could myself getting a tiny shot of adrenaline anytime someone addressed me that way.

          1. Onymouse*

            Totally fair that you want your undergrads to call you “Dr” – you’ve earned it, and I assume it’s the culture of your institution to have undergrads address their professors like that. By the same token though, some of those students-turned-new-grads are probably the same ones “Ms. Green”-ing their professional correspondence. I guess it’s one more thing for college career centers to try to address.

            1. Jill*

              I work in public education. It’s expected that if someone has a PhD you call them Dr. and most department heads are also referred to as Ms. or Mr. in correspondence and at public meetings. Some industries are still pretty formal.

              Especially public education – where everyone is over-educated and wants to be acknowledged for their multiple degrees. ~Sigh~

        1. Anonsie*

          I sometimes get called Dr. Anonsie by mistake and I admit I do get a little surge of good feelings every time.

        2. shep*

          I have a terminal master’s degree and I always wish there were a title to go along with it. Not because I’d insist people use it, but because it’s just kind of cool. But the correlate “Master” has a very megalomaniacal ring to it.

          I used to be involved in the hiring process, and while as I candidate I err on the side of formality, I’d never have an issue with applicants calling me by my first name.

          1. Lyssa*

            I have a law degree, which is technically a doctorate (juris doctorate), and I’ve always been a little disappointed that no one calls attorneys anything but Mr. or Ms.

            1. bridget*

              One could always choose be That Lawyer who insists on signing everything “Esquire,” but I don’t think it would win you many friends :)

              1. Anon, Esq.*


                We usually go for Attorney ___________ in formal situations, or for intros, at least in my jurisdiction.

                I sign formal docs and court docs with “Esq.” after my name, but I would freak out if someone called me Anon, Esq. to my face.

        3. Melissa*

          I can’t say whether you would or wouldn’t, but personally I didn’t. I’d much rather people just call me by my first name, even students. The “Dr.” feels too formal. I thought I would get a little shot of adrenaline, too, but honestly – I really don’t.

      2. Stephanie*

        When I worked retail, I did roll my eyes if I saw “Bob Smith, MD” on a credit card.

        1. Stephanie*

          That’s partly habit. In many fields in healthcare, having your professional initials after you last name in your signature is a requirement when signing on things (like a chart) in your professional capacity. A lot of them do it everywhere out of habit. I’ve seen a few get embarrassed when they see they’ve done it when they didn’t need to, and we laugh over it.

          1. Joline*

            It’s the same thing with designated accountants (at least in Canada). When we’re doing accountant-y things we’re supposed to sign with our designations. You can get in trouble from your designation for not doing so. So it could become a habit if you do lots of correspondence/signed paperwork.

            1. Anonsie*

              Yep. I have to correct this a lot on forms where they only want the name in one box and the credentials in the other, it’s definitely a force of habit.

          2. Ruffingit*

            Absolutely habit for me. At work I sign my name with degree and license as required. When signing my name outside of work I have to remember not to do that.

          3. Stephanie*

            Oh, I meant when it was embossed on the credit card permanently. I saw it as kind of egomaniacal, but your explanation makes sense (they signed that out of habit and MasterCard sent it a few days later).

      3. Aunt Vixen*

        Lately I’ve noticed some of my doctors refer to themselves by their first names – and the ones who don’t, who still call themselves Dr. Doctor, call me Ms. Vixen. So everyone is always on the same footing and it pleases me very much.

      4. Aunt Vixen*

        Lately some of my doctors have introduced themselves by their first names – and the ones who don’t, who still introduce themselves as Dr. Doctor, do so after calling me Ms. Vixen. So everyone’s equal, which pleases me very much.

        1. Amanda*

          Yes! My dentist refers to herself as “Dr. Soandso” and calls me Amanda. I find this annoying – if we’re being all formal, then let’s be formal consistently.

          1. Lionness*

            This. If you introduce yourself as Dr. Such and Such, I’m introducing myself as Ms. Lionness.

    2. Coffee, Please*

      I work for a church and I always refer to the pastors as Pastor John and Pastor Jane, even though they sign emails and introduce themselves using first name only. Hard to break the habit.

      1. Chrissi*

        When I went to visit a friend at his high-school classroom (he teaches autistic teenagers), I was instructed that I had to go by Ms. Chrissi, and when I made a video for my sister’s elementary school classroom I had to be Ms. Lastname. It felt very odd to not be able to introduce myself w/ my first name. I try and think of that when I call other professionals and feel tempted to call them Mr. or Ms. So-and-so instead of their first name.

      2. Artemesia*

        Pastor John is informal. It like Miss Sally in the south. It is a sign of subordination but less formal than Pastor Hornswoggle would be.

      3. Arjay*

        When I volunteered for a church, I created name tags for our pastor’s family reunion. I put his first name on it, just like I did for all the other family members, and he corrected me that he wanted his to include his title and say “Fr. John”. Professionally or within the parish that was how he was addressed, but it seemed oddly formal for a family event.

        1. Connie-Lynne*

          My great-uncle is a priest and all the cousins call him “Uncle Father Henry,” or “Uncle Father” for short. Mostly because it cracks us up.

      4. Bteq*

        I work for a church as well, and my manager (the pastor) said he prefers either first name “Bob” or “Pastor Smith”. He’s not 40 yet and feels like by going by “Pastor Bob” is like he’s trying too hard to be hip/relatable.
        I can understand this – if you’re gonna go formal and use a title, go all the way and use the person’s last name too. Of course, at my previous job, I called my manager “Pastor Winston”… and never found it easy to transition out of using the title even as I got to know him well!

  2. AnotherAnon*

    On a somewhat-related note, I’ll have an MD after my name in a few years. I’m kind of confused about how that works though – obviously I’ll introduce myself as “Dr. LastName” to patients and their families, and I’ll probably still call the attending physicians by “Dr. TheirLastName” out of respect unless they want to be called by their first name, but I don’t know whether to introduce myself as “Dr. LastName” or “FirstName” to everyone else in the work setting (nurses, PAs, admins, everyone else in a healthcare/academic center). Being female, I feel like the cultural expectation is for women to be friendly and relatable and that being known in the workplace as “Dr. LastName” might make me come off as unapproachable; at the same time I’m afraid using my first name (especially if my male colleagues go by “Dr. TheirLastName”) might make me be perceived as inferior and feed into the still-sort-of-a-boys-club culture of medicine (obviously this varies by location and speciality though!) I already have a Ph.D. (and only introduce myself as “Dr. LastName” at professional conferences currently), and my aim is to go into academia. Any thoughts?

    1. Rat Racer*

      The Doctor conundrum – this really is a thing for those of us who work in health care. I’m not a clinician but work among them in a non-clinical capacity. I never know whether to refer to my physician colleagues as Dr. LastName, Dr. FirstName or just FirstName. Sometimes, I will do all three in the same email if I’m feeling particularly schizophrenic.

      Meanwhile, my sister is a Nurse Practitioner, and functions for all intents and purposes as a PCP. It’s important for many reasons that her patients (and the general public) understand that she functions as a primary care provider, and calling herself by her first name when all the MDs are going by Dr. LastName subtly puts her on a lower playing field. Yet, calling herself “Nurse LastName” is too reminiscent of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and calling herself “Nurse Practitioner LastName” is a mouthful.

    2. De Minimis*

      I work at a medical clinic, and I think all the doctors go by and are addressed as “Dr.” by the staff. I don’t believe it’s something that anyone insisted on, it just seemed to happen more on its own. I think many people would think it odd if a doctor went by their first name in the work setting.

    3. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      My sister is an MD and in her residency, and my father has been a doctor for decades. The nurses at their respective hospitals call both of them, and the other doctors, “Dr. Lastname” in a professional capacity. This is both when talking to patients and when addressing them directly, even if patients aren’t around. It might not be the same everywhere, but this does seem to be the convention at many hospitals.

      I think it’ll be pretty quickly clear what the convention is wherever you wind up by observing others. I don’t think you can go wrong by introducing yourself with something like, “Hi, I’m Firstname Lastname, a new pediatrics resident” or something like that. Then people will call you whatever the standard thing to call you is.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        Also, I sympathize with the wondering. I’m a teacher, and when I was a sub in a new school for the first time it was always a game to figure out that school’s conventions before time to introduce myself to the kids! Sometimes I’d be Ms. Ginger, sometimes Miss Elizabeth, sometimes Miss G, sometimes just Elizabeth, and even (at Quaker schools) Teacher Elizabeth.

        1. Helka*

          I will never forget the one high-school teacher I had who (at least among his students; I don’t know what the other teachers called him) “G-Man!”

          With the exclamation point and everything, too. Suffice to say he was an odd duck.

          1. Helka*

            *who (parentheticals) went by, that should be.

            I edited my grammar halfway through typing that and forgot to get the whole thing straightened out properly.

          2. wishfulxsinger*

            I had a music teacher at my high school who was called “G” or “G-Man!” as well!

          3. Windchime*

            When my youngest son was in high school, he was a big band geek. They had a young, hip band teacher named Mr. Chambers. In high school (at least in my small town), it’s customary for boys to call each other by their last names. Because the band teacher was cool and only about 5 years older than the students, they called him “Chambers”. I don’t think he minded; at least, he never seemed to. The kids sure loved that guy and he was a great teacher.

          4. Pennalynn Lott*

            We had a vice principal (assistant principal?) in junior high whom we called, “Spanky”. To his face. Because if you chose licks instead of after-school study hall, he was the who wielded the paddle. I was one of the few girls who always chose licks. Three hard whacks with a big wooden paddle was way less painful than three one-hour session of tortuous boredom in study hall.

            (They don’t still hit kids in school, do they?)

        2. Hattie McDoogal*

          When I taught in Thailand, I was either “Teacher Hattie” or “Miss Hattie” (never Mrs. or Ms.). When I came back and taught in ESL schools in Canada, I was either “Hattie” or just “Teacher”, depending on the age of the students and where they were from. I’ve never been called “Ms. McDoogal”!

    4. Nurse Ratched*

      I work in an academic medical center as an RN, and the interns/residents/fellows usually introduce themselves to us as “FirstName LastName, the [specialty] intern/resident/fellow. We are generally on a first name basis with them, unless we are talking about/with them to patients or families in which case they are always “Dr LastName.” Usually, attendings are “Dr LastName”, but I’d say the nursing staff has a much closer working relationship with the interns, residents and fellows and we are all on a first name basis with each other. I can’t speak for the experience of being a female vs male physician in practice, though. I’d probably follow whatever your colleagues do. Good luck with your schooling and career!!

      1. NewDoc*

        This is the common practice in my residency, too — nurses address us by first name except when talking to patients/people outside the hospital. To introduce yourself as Dr. LastName to nurses would seem overly formal.

        When I first started residency, I introduced myself as FirstName…but then I had one too many patients complain that they hadn’t seen the doctor yet, so now I always introduce myself by title to patients…they meet a lot of people in the hospital, and it’s not always obvious by outfit who does what…they need to know who their doctor is. (Sometimes I go with Dr. FirstName with pediatric patients, though, as it’s much easier to say.)

    5. Anonsie*

      Oh boy there is a lot of debate about this one.

      Well for starters, as a resident, introducing yourself to colleagues as Dr. Soandso is a little gauche I think. I haven’t seen anyone do that before. Like Nurse Ratched (pffft) says below, residents tend to just give first and last names and note that they’re x specialty resident or x specialty R2 or something like that. With fellows it’s a little mixed, I’ve seen some who used the title in introductions but usually they don’t. I actually never hear people throw it in at medical conferences because it’s pretty well assumed you’re a doctor if you’re there, people assume I’m a resident/fellow or occasionally a PGY4 (they can tell I’m not old enough to be a surgical attending but that’s about it) constantly at those things.

      We generally call all the attendings Dr. Soandso at most times, but we only call the trainees that when speaking to patients or vendors or whatever. I have seen plenty of departments where everyone does first names only except when talking to patients, though, and when I introduce my attendings to people in social settings they get flustered if I throw doctor on there since it’s generally not done outside work (force of habit!). Just pick up your cues from what other people are doing, it does vary.

      1. MegEB*

        I rarely hear any of our fellows or PhD-level researchers use Dr. before their name. I’m not entirely sure why, but there you go. Certainly none of the residents use the title, and if they did they’d likely get some weird looks.

    6. Alicia*

      I have a PhD, and am a young-ish female. I’ll turn 30 this year, and have a role that many 45 year olds have… and when the introductions go around, all the older men are “Dr. X”, while I’m “Alicia”. I could care less if people call me Dr… except when others are being called doctor. I think (hope) it’s a function of my age rather than my gender, but it bugs me. In an academic environment, most people (especially those you interact with on a regular basis) don’t use the title. It would be so weird to me if that was the case. Now I’m speaking more around the department, and with research.

    7. MegEB*

      I work as an admin to several doctors, and even though I have wonderful connections with all of them, I call all of them “Dr. So-and-So”. It’s just how it’s done in my office. If it helps at all, all the doctors I work for are men, but it’s the same for the female MDs in my department. I really don’t mind, to be honest – they worked hard for that title, I can’t blame them for wanting people to use it. If the male doctors in your department use the “Dr.” title with everyone, I’d follow suit if I were you. There are plenty of ways to seem friendly and relatable that don’t involve your name at all.

      At my previous hospital admin job, I wouldn’t have dreamed of calling my boss Dr. So-and-So. If I did, he’d give me a weird look and tell me to knock it off, so it totally depends on your office culture. Basically, I’m recommending you do what your colleagues do, and focus on other ways to be approachable.

    8. AnotherAnon*

      Thanks everyone for the suggestions! I imagine I won’t have this issue much as a resident for the reasons you all mentioned, but this is definitely great information to keep on board for after residency.

    9. Ruffingit*

      I work closely with a physician and we all call her Dr. Last Name. She is so laid back that she’d probably be fine if we called her by her first name, but I feel it’s more respectful to use her title.

    10. Treena Kravm*

      This is totally an aside, but when you introduce yourself one day as Dr. LastName, and someone says something stupid like, “Dr. like a real doctor?” can you be all confused until they say, “Are you a medical doctor or do you have a PhD?” And you just cooly say, ‘Both.’ and walk away? I feel like that would make me really happy to witness.

  3. Not Katie the Fed*

    I do a lot of correspondence with people I don’t know for my job, and I’m at a higher level than they are, so I get a lot of Ms., but I don’t really mind my first name, so I always start with Mr./Ms. if I don’t know them, and sign with my first name, then use whatever they use in response (even if I always just sign with my first name).

  4. Chocolate lover*

    A friend of mine worked at an organization where they all called the head of the organization, her direct boss, Mr. Smith, even though he called everyone by their first names. She worked for him for over 5 years, and it was still Mr. Smith. Just seemed awkward.

    1. De Minimis*

      See at my job, people who work directly with the head of the organization usually call him by his first name, and people in other departments that don’t deal with him very much usually call him Mr.

    2. Lily in NYC*

      NYC’s village idiot (Donald Trump) makes his employees call him Mr. Trump. To me, it’s a sign of insecurity and an overly active ego.

  5. Lunch at Desk-er*

    I was unknowlingly disliked for 6 months after I started a new position because I did not address an older colleague as ‘Ms. FirstName,’ and just used their first name. She was introduced to me as FirstName so I applied AAM’s words of wisdom from above.

    Moral of the story? Not all work places follow normal people rules.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      I’m quite sure I don’t care if anyone who insists on being called Ms. FirstName likes me.

      The only exception, imho, would be if you work in a preschool or dance school, and she expects you to use that in front of students.

      1. Lunch at Desk-er*

        Agreed, and we didn’t even work in that type of environment. It turned out it was her way of flexing her seniority muscles, as I was the newbie to the team, regardless of the fact that we were the same level, just in different areas.

        I don’t remember if I ever addressed her as Ms. FirstName actually even after I found out she was disgruntled. It never affected my work so I would call that a win ;)

      1. Lunch at Desk-er*

        Problem with a capital P. The Associate Executive Director (her boss!) was also disliked because of doing this exact same thing. I heard the Executive Director (as in her boss’ boss) had to have a chat with her about her attitude since she was starting to get a little gossipy, which is how I learned she didn’t like me.

    2. Cleopatra Jones*

      I had a school bus driver introduce herself to me as, “Ms. SchoolBusDriverLady”. She got a serious eye roll from me because:
      1) We’re both adults. I didn’t need her to tell me to call her Ms. Anything.
      2) She was probably only about 10 years older than me, so I’m pretty sure we could have went with our grown up names.
      3) My kids didn’t even ride her bus.

      That whole interaction with her just rubbed me the wrong way.

      1. Michele*

        Was this in the South? One of the things I found weird about the South was the desire for women to be called Miss First Name. If you want to be formal and call each other by our honorifics and last names, OK. If you want to be formal and call each other by our first names, OK. But the hybridization bothered me, especially since it was often used by women in an attempt to establish their dominance. They would want to be called Miss Sansa, but they would just call me Michele.

        1. Adam*

          I always thought the “Miss First Name” was a kind of cute if pointless bit of geographic culture, but hearing that does make me think otherwise about it. The south does seem to have a fascinating additional layer of social customs beyond what many are used to. It reminds me of a former co-worker who once dated an honest-to-God southern debutante for a while and what an interesting experience that was.

          *Side note – in that relationship both partners were women, which made the mental picture of what that must have been like about 10 times more fascinating to me.

          1. SanguineAspect*

            I grew up in the South. As kids, we always called adults Mr. (LastName), Mrs. (LastName), or Ms. (LastName). I had ONE exception in my life, my mom’s best friend from childhood. She was always “Miss Donna” to us. We moved from the South to the Northeast when I was 12. And while I’m very socially and culturally Northern as an adult, I STILL call my mom’s best friend “Miss Donna.”

            I remember the first time I met a friend’s parents when we moved North; when they wanted me to call them by their first names, I was so scandalized. The social norms are definitely very different in the South!

        2. Cleopatra Jones*

          Sadly no, but the state I live in has a heavy southern influence so that could have been a part of it. But, I think you’re right, it kind of felt like she was trying to establish dominance in the situation where it wasn’t necessary.
          I just eye-rolled her and walked away.

        3. Anonsie*

          Yeah I was going to say, a lot of times people who work for schools just automatically throw the honorific on there because that’s what they get called all the time by the kids so it’s more like “if you hear your kid refer to Ms. SchoolBusDriverLady, that’s me” rather than “you are supposed to call my Ms. SchoolBusDriverLady.”

          But, I also went to school in the South. So there’s that. We tend to call people who are older than us, especially women, with a Ms even if we’re using their first name. And if there’s a power dynamic there (I’m younger but I’m a customer, we’re close in age but you’re my boss) then the Ms can also get thrown in against the age grain.

          1. Cleopatra Jones*

            Actually that interaction would have been fine with me but the conversation went more like this:

            Ms. SchoolBusDriverLady: What’s your name?
            Me: Cleopatra
            Ms. SchoolBusDriverLady: Oh, you can call me Ms. SchoolBusDriverLady.
            Followed by an ‘Oh, no she didn’t.’ look from me and some awkward silence before I walked away.

            1. Anonsie*

              Weeeell nevermind my theories then. You’re not supposed to call yourself by an honorific like that.

            2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

              I assume you’re using “SchoolBusDriverLady” as a stand-in for a real name, but it’s an even more awesome story if that’s literally what she said.

        4. Helka*

          Personally, the time I spent living in the South several of my coworkers did it, but there was a sense of affection and respect that went with it, not of dominance or hierarchy. Yes, it was mostly the older women who were “Miss Helen” and “Miss Charlotte,” but it tended to be used in a way that showcased (mostly for our customers) that these were women who knew what they were about and were worthy of respect.

          I can’t speak to whether or not this would have been a thing for men as well; my working environment only had a few men in it the entire time I was there, and it wasn’t appropriate for any of them (they were all young, one was on a work-training program and wasn’t customer-facing, and one was our deeply loathed manager).

          What it did have was a racial dimension, and more than once I used it as a very subtle way to call out our customers for their equally subtle racism.

          1. Cajun2core*

            I was born and raised in Louisiana and now live in Alabama. What you say here is very true and better than I could have put it.

          2. Connie-Lynne*

            This is my experience, as well.

            I suppose I could see someone who insisted on being called with the honorific as trying out some kind of dominance play, but I feel like that would get shut down tout suite with “And you can call *me* ‘Miz Constance.'”

            I’ve never known anyone to be able to keep the “Miz” honorific in the south unearned. Unless it’s “Oh, yeah, we call her ‘Miz,’ if you know what I mean.” Which is an entirely different thing.

        5. PhyllisB*

          Being from the South, I will field that question!! But first I want to say, I understand what Alison is saying, but in a formal situation (like an interview) at least where I’m from when you meet the senior person, you always address the senior person (in this case the interviewer/hiring manager) as Ms. Green even if they address you by your first name. That is the cue to say, “Oh please, call me Alison!” That is just the way we do things here. Now about the Miss thing. Same thing if you are twenty years old and the co-worker you are talking to is fifty or sixty, then you address them as Ms. Alison or Mr. Bob unless A: You hear everybody else address them as just Alison or Bob or B: They say “Hey, we’re not formal here. Just call me Alison (or Bob) it’s a way showing respect to someone who is senior to you. I know other areas of the country don’t always do this, but why disparage us for doing it?

        6. Person of Interest*

          Yes to this – when I started working in the South, my office had the culture of calling each other Ms./Mr. FirstName regardless of relative age or gender, as a sign of mutual respect. It was weird to me at first as a native New Englander, but I actually find it useful. For example, I volunteer as a literacy tutor working with low-income adults (both older and younger than me, and different races). I find that using the honorific helps signal a positive, respectful tone when I am getting to know them and establishing our mutual working relationship.

          In my job search, I usually followed the lead of the person emailing me – if they called me Ms. LastName, I did the same to them. If they used my first name, I used theirs.

      2. Not a Southerner*

        When I was a young adult, I had a slightly higher peon status at my org, and was often addressed as Ms. FirstName by subordinates who were only a couple of years younger than me. It was explained to me that it was a respect thing, and I acknowledged it as such, but it always felt strange.

      3. Arjay*

        When my husband and I applied for our current apartment, we met with the property manager who seemed like a lovely lady. She hadn’t given us her name, so I asked her at the end of the conversation and she said she was Mrs. LastName. I found that very odd, since as Alison mentions, we’re all adults here. It turned out to be a bad sign of things to come. She’s actually very obstructive and difficult to deal with. We can’t wait to move!

  6. Brooke*

    How would you start the beginning of a cover letter? (Use Ms/Mr/etc or just a first name?)

    1. MikeTheRecruiter*

      Hi Brooke – Corporate Talent Acquisition/Recruiting here. Please, call me Mike, not Mr. It sounds way too rigid. We’re a fun company! Loosen up a bit. Not too much, of course, but a first name is fine.

      And while a nice cover letter is fantastic, I’m more often then not looking at your skills/accomplishments first and foremost, so focus on having a well constructed resume above all else (and then a cover letter in second).

      1. fposte*

        I thought for a minute you were offering that first paragraph as a model. That would be bad.

        1. Chrissi*

          I did too :) I do address all of my professional correspondence to Mr. or Ms. in our formal letters that go out, but when I email, I usually default to whatever they signed their last email as (if they signed it) or their first name if they didn’t. I have to admit, I sometimes fall back to using Mr. or Ms. if the person I’m corresponding w/ is the owner of the company I’m contacting or in a very high-ranking position in a large company. I can’t seem to help it.

    2. Rat Racer*

      I’m in the midst of hiring somebody, and let me tell you, I could care less what they call me in the cover letter. In fact, I’m just happy when people bother to write a cover letter (most are not). On the other side of the hiring desk, I’m discovering that so many of the things I worried about (how to address the hiring manager, what font my resume is in, whether you wish me a good day or not) matters so very, very little.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        Yes! There are ways to do it wrong (use Party Curlz font and open the letter with “yo, hiring peeps”) but not One Best Way To Do This That Will Get You Hired.

        1. OfficePrincess*

          Yes! I don’t care if you chose the exact perfect word, but please make sure it’s all in English. Also, please pick a format and stick with it, don’t change it for each section. I have very low standards for what you do pick, but make a decision and run with it.

        2. blackcat*

          As a teacher, I have had to explain to students that “Yo” is not a proper salutation.

          I always told them that I was training them for the “real world,” where starting an email to a superior with “yo” will likely be frowned upon…

      2. Brooke*

        Thanks for this. I always put a lot more effort into the resume, but still try to clearly make a good effort with a cover letter as well!

      3. BRR*

        Weird story, I just applied for a mid-level professional position (where writing maters) and once I logged into the system it only allowed you to upload a resume (no indication whatsoever of a cover letter). I had assumed it would require a cover letter and had one written.

        1. Alicia*

          That’s when you merge the cover letter and resume into one document and attach it.

          1. Anx*

            I’m always torn about this.

            Couldn’t this be perceived as trying to work around the system?

              1. Anx*


                I thought if it were asking to ‘upload your resume,’ that including a cover letter could seem like you couldn’t follow directions well. Also, if they wanted one, I would imagine they would have a section for it (although I know many people actually doing the hiring detest the ATS they have to work with and long for the simple resume + cover letter days). I also thought that for certain jobs, they try to standardized the applications as much as possible (they way a government job might) and try to eliminate the more subjective parts of an application.

                Not that this is necessarily reasonable.

                I guess one could reasonably figure that a ‘resume’ may include a cover letter as part of its presentation, rather than an extra application material.

                1. Bteq*

                  Yes. You’re overthinking it, which I understand. AAM has helped me discern when I’m overthinking and when I’m being smart. Still learning though… :)

      4. Allison*

        There are probably some exceptionally weird ways to address the person who may be reading your cover letter, but I agree that the majority of people who screen applications won’t be picky. This isn’t school, no one’s going over your materials with a red pen looking for mistakes, or discrepancies between your format and the format they expected.

  7. Amber Rose*

    It’s been so long since I called someone Mr./Ms. [last name] that it feels too bizarre when I think about it. Maybe because it makes me feel like I’m 5 again.

    Even when I first emailed my boss to arrange an interview before I met him I’m pretty sure I just said “Hello John”.

    In fact it’s so weird I have trouble spitting it out when I’m expressly told to use a particular form of address. I sound like I do when I curse: awkward and stiff. (I very infrequently swear when I talk. Usually only when I drive.)

  8. Miss Betty*

    I know it’s common and we all do it, but addressing strangers by their first names (and being addressed by first name by people who don’t know me) still seems weird and disrespectful to me. They’re not your family, not your buddies – they’re strangers. No one would’ve addressed my grandparents or parents by their first names if they weren’t friend or relatives and I looked forward to the same courtesy as an adult – and by the time I was an adult, that convention was dying out. Then again, I see a definite lack of respect between people in general that wasn’t there when I was a child. Everyone thinks they’re familiar with everyone else. Then again, I’m old! (Er, middle aged.) Also, I work in the law field and using Mr. or Ms. is still very common, particularly when addressing anyone outside the firm, and particularly in correspondence, but also on the phone. (P.S. – not crotchedy old. First names are the way to go these days, so I just go with it. Much easier that fighting uphill for an issue not worth dying for!)

    1. Amber Rose*

      But why is your given name disrespectful?

      I mean, I would definitely find it disrespectful to be called Ambie, or Amberger or Rosie or any of the other silly nickname mutations of my name. But Amber is my name! You don’t need to be my best friend to know it, why should you need to be my friend to use it?

      I genuinely don’t understand why one of the most fundamental parts of your identity would be considered too familiar for people to use.

      1. fposte*

        Because “familiar” has a relevant root there. I don’t want to be familiar with everybody I encounter, same as I don’t want to invite anybody who stops by into my bedroom. The most fundamental part of my identity isn’t everybody’s business.

        (I actually go by my first name most of the time, and I really don’t like being addressed as “Dr.,” but I think it makes perfect sense that these rules have existed and that some people still like them.)

          1. Mpls*

            Your last name (if following the Western custom) is more public because more people have it. It’s a family name. Your given name is yours and yours alone, making it more intimately connected to you, so using a given name would be considered a privilege of someone who knew you well enough to know YOU and not just know your family or know of you.

            The idea is also a throw back to first names being reserved for intimate companions (friends, spouses, parents). Sometimes spouses didn’t even call each other by their given name in public. Acquaintances needed to receive permission to call someone by their given name.

            1. Miss Betty*

              Right off hand, I can think of two good books – fiction- in which names play an important role. One is Island of the Blue Dolphins. If you remember it from grade school, you might recall that people had two names, one of which was a secret, and the main character believed that all the bad luck that befell her village was caused by the chief – her father – giving his private name to strangers. The other is Dying of the Light by George R. R. Martin (yes, the Game of Thrones guy!), which was published in 1977. One of the cultures he invents in the novel has all kinds of rules about names and a saying that crops up often in the book: “Give a thing a name and it will somehow come to be.” I was 9 when I read the first book and 15 when I read the second and they both made huge impressions on me and became favorite books. I suspect both of them influenced how I think about names and their use more than I realize.

              I think names and the traditions and values surrounding them are very interesting. I see the near-universal use of first names in the US (can’t speak to other countries) as a significant sign of the change our culture has been undergoing for most of my life. I won’t say it’s a bad thing, but I will say that on occasion I miss that bit of formality.

              1. Armchair Analyst*

                Reminds me of religions (Judaism, Islam, not sure of others) where the One Gd is Unnamed, does not have a name, or has a secret name, or many casual names (the all-merciful, the Omnipotent, the Always- Existing, etc.)

                Also the idea of mother’s maiden name used to be a secret – my mother is still alive and uses her maiden name and this is my password?!

              2. Lindsay J*

                In the Dresden Files, if a supernatural being has your name they have a way to have a direct influence over you, pretty much.

                The main character uses telling part of his name (one of his middle names, basically) as a bargining chip with a demon he needs information from in one of the books.

            2. Marcela*

              @Mpls, I don’t really but this, because it’s the combination of first and last names that’s unique. There are thousands of Marcelas in the world -at least in Spanish speaking countries: there is nothing special or mine alone. It’s just when it’s together with my last name (not the same thing as family name, as I share last name with my siblings only) that I have something mine that uniquely identifies me.

          2. Jamie*

            Kind of not the point – but I was thinking about this yesterday due to a real life situation. I’ve been married a long time and it still feels like my husband’s last name and I don’t think it will ever feel like mine.

            It’s absolutely not due to anything personal or emotionally charged…it’s just not mine. So weird as I didn’t feel that way with my first marriage and I didn’t have an established career before this marriage so it’s not like I changed mid-stream. I don’t dwell on it, but when it comes up it feels analogous to wearing another person’s shoes: even if they are the right size and basic style and they were willingly given – heck, they want you to wear their shoes. They like that you wear their shoes…and there is nothing wrong with the shoes…they just aren’t my shoes.

            It came up yesterday when someone I had just met asked how to pronounce my last name and the words “my husband’s name…” followed by pronouncing it came out of my mouth. One of those moments where you have no idea you’re going to say something until you hear it at the same time as your audience. Like my mouth was bypassing my brain and trotting out some improve. I had a weird bemused moment where I wondered what I would say next.

            They asked how long I had been married I know expecting it to be recently which is why I responded in such a bizarre way – the look I got when I said how long (over a decade) was probably the same look I had on my face when I blurted it out.

            I can’t hyphenate and there is no way to take back my maiden name now without that seeming like a statement on my marriage which is so is not…(not to mention I am very lazy and the courthouse isn’t located in my living room.) I can’t imagine anything I’d love more than to have people who know me casually speculate about my marriage. /s

            So weird because usually things either really bother me or I don’t notice them at all – I don’t do ambivalent well and this is one of those rare gray areas for me where I wish I’d kept my name but I keep forgetting to be unhappy about it for stretches of time.

            Only went off topic because it’s late in the day…but here’s my awkward segue back to the topic: ITA with Mpls re last names being less personal because they are shared. They represent a group of which you are a part (or your spouse is), not the specific individual in that group like your given name does. And when a mom says your name her voice laced with love, your dad yelling out to you to make sure you’re okay, someone crying out your name during romantic activities, sexily whispering it in your ear…that’s all first name stuff. Last name stuff is saved for the bank, IRS, and backs of baseball jerseys. Much less personal.

            1. Revanche*

              I didn’t take my husband’s name for that very reason: it didn’t feel like it’d fit me. We’d been together for ages so it wasn’t a new relationship issue. I just couldn’t see myself with a different last name any more than I could a different first name.

        1. Jamie*

          I totally get this and this is the kind of thing I’d usually love – I hate seeing lovely social customs die out.

          Like how in theory I would love for a return of men in jackets/hats and women in gloves who “dressed” even to shop. In practice I’m an even bigger fan of comfort so I’d hate it if that were to happen.

          I can honestly say the only time I’m addressed by Ms/Mrs verbally is by the cashiers at the grocery store who butcher my last name as they read it off the receipt. And when my kids were school age it’s common practice of teachers, etc. But now it’s just the cashiers and in writing on Christmas cards/wedding invites.

          I didn’t allow my kids to call adults by their first names, unless the adults insisted (as their preference over what to be called trumps my sop) but I honestly cannot recall the last time I called any adult by a title either except for doctors. Look how casual I am – I’m practically easy going!

      2. Anonsie*

        Cultural context. Many people (like me) were raised where you are supposed to get permission to use someone’s given name all by itself because it’s a direct measure of your interpersonal relationship. I guess you could think of it as referring to someone by their role versus their individuality, and the respect inherent in that. If you’re calling someone Mr. Lastname you’re referring to them in the context of their family and possibly community, but if you call him FirstnameBob you’re just referring to him as a guy without that context. It’s seen as a removal of that person from their social significance, I guess you could say, so it’s not something you would do unless you knew them well because you are removing status. Very equivalent with calling someone a goofy nickname that their close friends use when introducing them in public, you know, it’s sort of throwing out their personal face when you’re not supposed to.

        It’s regional in the US but also globally, it’s just considered too personal because only your family and friends use that given name.

        1. Amber Rose*

          Then I’m glad it’s not as common anymore. How awful to live in a world where your social status is all that matters about you.

          1. Anonsie*

            It’s hardly your overall social status. It’s like in the nickname example you give, think of what it would feel like to you if you meet someone and they immediately start called you Amburger without asking if it was ok and then they just always called you that. You’d probably feel like they were being pretty forward and personal with that, right? Since only your friends would normally do that.

            Now just sub in family name and given name. It’s the same meaning, but due to whatever cultural happenstance it’s your family name that’s your normal name that’s normally used for you and the given that’s more personal and used by friends. It’s not like we sat down and calculated some exactly logic behind this, it’s just how people do it. You could argue that if your friends call you Amburger then everyone should be able to call you Amburger, but there is a social context that makes that inappropriate. That context didn’t develop from a committee making rules, it evolved over many years of varying situations where your family name was an important way for people identify you.

            1. Tau*

              And it’s, when things are divided up like that use of the first name becomes a pretty significant thing and indicator of a relatively close relationship. Also, use of informal you, for those of us who speak languages that do that. :)

              For someone coming from a cultural context which restricts use of first names, having them be used broadly can be really irritating – a bit like people invading your personal space, presuming a far greater intimacy than is present – and also a serious potential pitfall since it can be easy to end up assuming you have the same type of relationship with people like as you would with people you’re on a first-name basis on in your own culture and get burnt if you ask for a friend-style favor or the like. (I remember reading advice for German businesspeople in the US that was along these lines regarding general American/German cultural norms, cautioning that US counterparts who were giving off all the “we are good friends! ask me if you need to bury a body!” signals by German standards were most likely only being polite.)

              …personally, I admit I prefer the superficially friendly first names for all!! style, but that doesn’t mean that the other way is *wrong*.

              1. Anonsie*

                a serious potential pitfall since it can be easy to end up assuming you have the same type of relationship with people like as you would with people you’re on a first-name basis on in your own culture

                Oof, that’s a big one. That’s the whole point of things like this– it allows you to convey how you feel about the other person and your relationship and your intentions in a way that is both clear and also subtle. How people do it varies, but it’s not more or less correct any one way.

                This is what people are talking about when they say culture shock!

          2. Jamie*

            Then I’m glad it’s not as common anymore. How awful to live in a world where your social status is all that matters about you.

            Can we go back to that? Because this having to be a quality person and being judged on my character and actions is freaking exhausting. If I was assigned a station in life, whatever it may be, I could just embrace it and be done with it.

            1. Armchair Analyst*

              +1 Like realizing that the Downstairs People in Downton Abbey maybe have an easier lot in life?

              1. Jamie*

                Exactly – and seriously I’d take making beds and scrubbing toilets over fancy pants small talk with the tedious any day, any era, any lifetime.

          3. fposte*

            I think you’ve misunderstood–it’s not about social status, it’s about degrees of intimacy. Think of it in terms of touching: you’re probably okay with a guy bumping you in a crowd or touching thigh to thigh with you on the subway, but if he started petting your hair you’d likely find that a problem. Does that mean your hair is what most matters about you? It’s not hurting you, after all, and you’ve already been okay with him touching you.

            It’s an important concept in a lot of places and languages still (I don’t know how Quebec French is about the tutoyer), and there are definitely some older people in Canada as well as the US who’d take it amiss if somebody failed to address them with the honorific and last name. But also it’s a really good opportunity to get your mind around some nuance that’s been important without insisting other places’ and people’s ways must be inferior.

      3. Miss Betty*

        Because first names are for familiar acquaintances. Using it is presuming a relationship we don’t have. But as I said, that’s not the way it’s done anymore so I just go with the convention. I don’t make an issue of it in real life and when the conversation comes up here on AAM, it’s the only time I address it. (This conversation always makes me think of the use of “tu” in Spanish and makes me wonder if “usted” has also gone by the wayside. Anyone with Spanish as a first language want to enlighten me?)

        1. a*

          Spanish isn’t my first language, but I know “usted” is still in common usage. As is “vous” in French, and most other languages with a formal and informal second person pronoun.

          English used to have an informal pronoun – thou. But we’ve pretty much eliminated it and only use the formal/plural “you.”

          1. Joline*

            German still uses sie/du. I still think of my Oma (grandmother) having a conversation with her across the hall neighbour where after decades of knowing each other the neighbour (who was the elder of the two) said that my Oma could call her “du” (the informal). Though they still called each other Frau LastName to the end as opposed to given names.

            I learned my German as a child and then moved to Canada. Now that I’m older and registering my language a bit more as an adult I’m trying to work on my sie vs. du. And the intricacies are sometimes tricky for me. They say it’s always safe to err on the side of formal – it’s usually true, but at times can come off as standoffish or socially unaware.

            1. a*

              I’d think people would be a little more forgiving for you, since you come from a country with not too many German speakers. When I know someone isn’t used to speaking English, I’m not as easily offended by their manner of speaking as I would be if it were coming from someone else.

              1. Joline*

                My problem is that I have a great German accent because I learned it from family as a child while living there- dialect and everything. So people don’t necessarily register that I’m a foreigner unless I disclose (which I do often try to do). When I disclose people are usually really good about it because they’re just impressed that one of the half Canadian kids actually kept their German.

          2. Jen RO*

            I got a lecture from my boyfriend about “tutoyer” my French coworkers when I first met them. (Context: He worked in French companies extensively, knows French very well, spent time in France and knows the customs better than me. I am almost fluent in French, but it was my first time visiting there for work.) He said I should’ve asked permission first – I disagreed (and still do). It is pretty obvious I don’t speak French that well, so I’m sure they wouldn’t hold it against me, but I do wonder if he is right or not.

            Romanian also has “formal you”, but in my office it would be extremely out of place to use it. However, when I got hired (it was my first office job), it was really difficult to tell whether it’s OK to be informal with everyone, so I would CC my American boss for an excuse to use English :)

        2. Anonsie*

          Anyone with Spanish as a first language want to enlighten me?

          Aha, interestingly enough this one also depends on where you are just like the first name-last name thing we were already talking about. I grew up in an immigrant community of people mostly from Mexico and Guatemala and we did not use tu no no no do not do it unless you are absolutely sure. Important thing.

          But people who had learned Spanish in other places (Ecuador is the only one I distinctly remember) often used tu exclusively until someone told them to stop, and in all cases they said they were raised/taught that usted was stuffy and weird. It’s always seemed like a north/south america split but don’t quote me on that, just my experience.

        3. the gold digger*

          I am a native English speaker who has been learning Spanish since I was six and has spoken it fluently for over 20 years. As far as I can tell, the “tu” vs “usted” distinction is still used.

          In the US version of “The Bridge,” I was really curious about why the CEO addressed the drug lord as “usted.” I asked my Mexican co-worker – “Isn’t ‘usted’ a sign of respect?”

          My co-worker explained that it can also be used to distance yourself from someone: “You are a drug dealer and I am not like you.” (ALthough of course he was! He was just the legit front end of the business! He was equally slimy.)

        4. Mockingjay*

          Usted – formal “You” is used in Castilian Spanish – spoken in Spain. Tu the informal “You” is more common in Mexican and Latin America Spanish. The Castilian (and other dialects) reflects the formal ‘”you” used in most European languages. German: Sie – formal you, du – informal you.

          I learned Castilian Spanish in high school, then got a Mexican professor in college. He was great, but I struggled with the difference until our last course – Spanish Literature. I was able to read Don Quixote quite easily.

        5. Mephyle*

          For Spanish, it varies by region. ‘Usted’ has faded more in Spain than in Latin America in general. Colombia has this weird inversion where ‘usted’ is for close friends and family and ‘tú’ can be used with strangers.
          On the other hand, you can skip the first name or last name? dilemma because it’s very common to call people by just a title instead of their name. It’s like the way in English you might address a doctor as ‘Doctor’ or a priest as ‘Father’, except it extends to everybody. If they have a professional or occupational title, you use it, otherwise señor(a) or don/doña, for example.

          1. Fliptastic*

            I am Colombian and actually we use “usted” for everyone not just family and closed friends and ‘Tu” is not really used with strangers. Sometimes people will use it when they forget that they’re not in the company of family or closed friends but as a general rule, Colombians try to use ‘Usted’ for everyone to err on the safe side.
            It is true that it varies a bit based on the regions. In the coast of the country, it is more common to use ‘tú’ but even then they are cautious to use it only with very close family members.

        6. Marcela*

          I’m Chilean and we use “usted” all the time for professional relationships, unless we are explicitly told we can use “tú”. The other big usage of “usted” is for people older than us, and this has has the effect that many people refuses to being treated as “usted” because they feel older.

          My mother, on the other hand, as soon as we reached puberty, required my siblings and I to use “usted” with her. She thinks that makes us more aware of the respect we owe her. But I don’t think she realizes to this day how that created some distance in our relationship, because for me, “usted” is something I used to talk to people in power positions respect to me when I was a child, such as my teachers, my grandparents or the police :D, or somebody I don’t know yet. I respect very much my father, whom I “tuteo” (that means using tú) and I have been disrespectful to my mother in the past, when using “usted”.

      4. a*

        Yeah, I don’t really understand either why this change in convention constitutes a lack of respect. Then again, I’m young and haven’t really seen adults calling each other “Mrs. Whatever” except in school.

        1. fposte*

          I think you’ve come close right there in your phrasing–it’s a change of convention that means behaving in the same way as being disrespectful. It’s like if there was a new convention in the next generation to spit on people as a greeting. It’d take some doing for most of us to react with warmth in the situation, even if we’d heard that that’s the thing.

      5. MK*

        For the same reason people observe arbitrary notions of personal space. Am I hurting you by standing X centimetres away from you instead of Z? As long as I am not touching you, shouldn’t it be fine? But most people would feel uncomfortable if a stranger got too close to their person. Calling someone by their first name assumes an intimacy most people aren’t willing to grant on first meeting you; even if they don’t care, they feel put-upon, like being annoyed by you taking something they wouldn’t mind giving, if only you had asked.

        1. Anonsie*

          And much like names, the exact amount of space left for interpersonal distance (or when it’s ok to touch someone) varies by culture and expectations. It doesn’t make any sense to sit there with a ruler and say this distance makes more sense so x cultural group is wrong because that’s not how those expectations are developed.

    2. Mockingjay*

      I spent 9 years in Germany, where things are very formal. Everyone is addressed as Frau or Herr. You do not call persons by their first name until they invite you to do so. Work, school, local government – all were formally addressed.

      After so many years overseas, I experienced a bit of culture shock when I moved back to the States. I will never forget standing in line at the deli counter and being asked, “What do you need, honey?” Umm, do I know you?

      My interactions are still more formal than my coworkers, although I do use first names. But for important visitors and program sponsors, I address them as Mr. or Ms. by reflex.

      I just like structure and formality. It’s how I am built. But I also realize that others are not this way, so I try to match my interactions to the workplace culture.

      1. De Minimis*

        About the only thing I really remember from German class was the whole cultural issue on informal address vs. formal address. I think it’s undergone a generational shift, but according to what I was taught, you could know someone for years and still use the formal address with them. That was the default, and the informal was only used with people with whom you were close.

        1. Tau*

          It’s *definitely* undergone a generational shift. I’m German but have been living in the UK for ten years, and it seems like every time I come back for a visit I get hit in the face with the fact that the rules of formality I grew up with no longer apply. (Chatty person across from me on the train: “but… I’m obviously older than fifteen… you’re an adult who is not a student… we’ve known each other for all of five minutes… why are you using the informal ‘you’ this is not how things are meant to work.“) It’s been very confusing!

          1. fposte*

            I remember returning to Stockholm after ten years and finding out the population had learned to jaywalk in the interim.

        2. Joline*

          I mentioned in a comment above – my Oma knew her across the hall neighbour (and not just waving – invites to major life event parties, etc.) for probably thirty years before across the hall neighbour (the elder of the pair) offered up the “du”.

        3. De (Germany)*

          Believe me, the cultural shift just makes it a lot harder for everyone. It’s really quite awkward having to figure out what form to use.

          1. Tau*

            Ah, the old “how can I talk to this person without ever using the word ‘you'” dance, I know it far too well.

    3. Finn*

      Yeah, unless I’m really truly on a first-name basis with someone I’m emailing, I use Mr. or Ms., and I’m frequently emailing lawyers and even government spokespeople for comment. So I was a bit taken aback by the advice to use first names in an email response to a manager (at a place you don’t work at but want a job at) … I’m not aghast. :) And it makes sense to follow once the other person uses your first name. But to me (I’m in a senior role) it’s not about formalizing something up. I’ve always thought of it as being professional correspondence.

    4. Sara*

      I feel the same way! I will of course default to using one’s name of choice once beyond that very first point of interaction (as soon as you say, “Call me Bob,” it’s Bob instead of Mr. Smith), but it’s always been Mr. or Mrs. or Ms. So-and-So at first for me, and I really don’t see that changing. The respect and familiarity thing Miss Betty mentioned really speaks to me. And for the record, I’m 29!

      (I also work in K-12 education, though, so it’s more “normal” for me to refer to my colleagues as Mr. or Ms. So-and-So, since that’s what I’ll use in front of the kids.)

      1. Anx*

        Same age, and I do it, too!

        In my longest job, things were very, very casual. It was a very unusual student employment situation. We tended to call each other by our last names. Another one we also went by last names. I didn’t think this was common outside of those environments.

        But usually I go by Ms./Mr./Dr. until they introduce their first name to me. Now I’m wondering if I’ve been acting weird or not. I don’t know how fast I can change this without being awkward trying to transition.

        I am also realizing I still call my boss by Mr. X. But pretty much everyone I work with does. I DO work with a lot of college students, though. Although my past college jobs used a lot of last names as first names and first names for my bosses, I think it may be a factor here. I’ve never heard anyone call him by his first name, though. So I don’t think I’ll start now.

    5. Uyulala*

      I think some people moved away from it because it made them feel old and they are insecure about that. Those are the “Mr. Doe is my dad, call me John” people. These also tend to be the same sort that don’twant their grandchildren to call them Grandpa/Grandma.

  9. YandO*

    I don’t address people with Mrs/Ms and I doubt I will ever start. It feels unnatural and weird.

  10. M*

    Actually I would be offended if you called me by my first name at an interview. It implies a level of familiarity that isn’t there. But since I’m the job seeker I have no choice but to follow your lead but it doesn’t mean I like it.

    First day at actual job is different but in the interview process we are not friends. And I especially cringe when an unknown takes it upon themselves to call me by a nick name. Adults used to call each other by their last names all the time. Not doing so doesn’t mean I’m a child it means I don’t know you like that.

    It would be easier for everyone start as formal and get closer when warranted (after hiring) then for both sides to have mis steps due to misreading actions taken during interview process. You have your strong thoughts on it so I doubt I’ll change your mind but understand the job seeker is not in the position to push back formally.

    1. my two cents*

      when’s the last time you had an in-person interview? this expectation seems so so so outdated, rigid, and like a weird control/power-play thing. to shorten one’s first name (say, from michael to mike) without some input or prompting is one thing. but, you actually *expect* to be called mr. when you come in for a first round in-person interview?

      i’d wager that you’ve been in your career or field for at least 20 years.

      1. M*

        I’m actually in process of interviewing now and I’m not a man (not that you would know that). But yes call me Ms. unless/until our relationship has changed to coworkers. The entire process is rigged against the interviewee. They’re not offering benefits above board or being honest about job description. They’re certainly not looking out for MY best interests. They’re doing what’s best for them. So don’t add injury to insult by pretending were friends or that you’re looking out for me when you’re not. I get that I can’t change how others feel but it’s usually the first step to other encroachments that I can’t stand. This growing informalness hasn’t led to improved work relations just more muddling of personal space.

        1. my two cents*

          wow. it sounds like you’re interviewing with all the wrong companies, or maybe just within a really terrible industry. i just landed a new role after being with my current job for 8 years, but before that final round with my new great company i had some real stinker interviews. i’ve had a few awkward ‘oh, little lady’ type of interviews (i’m a female el. engineer), but for the most part the companies i’d actually want an offer from are selling me on their company (culture/industry/benefits) as well. part of their ‘best interests’ is insuring that you’re going to be happy and STAY in the role for some time. this company i’m about to start with? they spent some time letting me know why they felt i was their top choice over the other candidates. they wanted me to want the role, because it’s a complete waste of their time to train me if i’m just going to bounce out after a year.

          why do you automatically assume that these employers are just out to deceive you? when you show up ‘ready for a battle’, you’re likely coming across as difficult, angry, and/or cold – not confident and poised as you intend.

          you should be able to hold your own ground and feel empowered without needing the ms. title – it just seems awkward, cold, and bristled. if someone approached you at a work function, would you still introduce yourself this way?

          1. my two cents*

            know you like how? …like using a first name?! nope, i’d be totally weirded out if the interviewer insisted on being called mr/ms/miss ___. it would make me feel like a small child. and i certainly would never introduce myself like that. the only time i’ve ever added a “ms” to my name is when a customer/colleague email addresses me as a guy, despite my rather feminine first name.

            “you don’t know me like that” just sounds so… man, what a terrible way to begin interactions with people – with an immediate recoil. do you also introduce yourself to colleagues at conferences or work events like that? yikes.

            1. Ssss*

              Small children are generally referred to by first names, all of the time.
              Adults have full names and professional titles. Until we develop rapport or a relationship, please show me the perfunctory respect of addressing me as a professional adult, not a small child.

  11. Adam*

    You know what I think this is? When many of us were kids we were taught to always address new adults we were introduced to (and certain ones forever after) as Mr./Ms. Such-and-Such. The thing is I don’t think anyone told us when to stop doing that. To this day, business-wise, I always default with Mr./Ms. etc. until they begin speaking in a fashion that says first names are ok. It’s really an ingrained habit.

    Similarly, when I was first entering the official workforce as far as an office setting goes, it took me a while to get used to the fact that if I wanted to speak up in a meeting I didn’t need to raise my hand first.

    1. Anna*

      My aunt had a neighbor whose kids called all adults Mr/Mrs Lastname. My aunt never liked being called Mrs so she asked to be called by her first name. The neighbor wouldn’t let her kids call her by her first name because it “wasn’t respectful.” No, what isn’t respectful is insisting on calling someone a name they prefer you didn’t use, especially after being explicitly told. I always hoped those kids grew up to get that worked out.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I’m not a fan of Mrs. LastName, but my first name always sounds weird, too. I’ve actually decided I most prefer my sons’ friends call me “Hey KidsName’s Mom.” ; )

        1. Adam*

          Haha. My best friend’s mother, who I met when I was in college, did that with me once. She has a pretty name that’s fairly unique. Only about 1,500 people have that first name in all the U.S. It’s not hard to say now, but she was the first time I’d even heard of that name’s existence before so I didn’t get it right the first few times.

          So she sweetly and sincerely said that I, a 20 year old man, could just call her “Jordan’s mom.”

        2. Not Katie the Fed*

          On a related note, even though I’m well in my 30’s, I have trouble calling my mother by her first name, even though in a public setting it’s much preferred – too many “Moms!”

          1. AnotherAlison*

            I always call my mom “Mom.” I’ll yell her name to get her attention or say her name if I’m introducing her to someone else, but otherwise I can’t think of any reason not to call her mom in public.

            The ones I struggle with are some Aunts/Uncles who I’m not close to, and what to call them. One uncle wasn’t around much when I was growing up, and my husband now has a closer relationship to him than I do (not close, but he probably talks to him 1x/mo) and when I do talk to him, it’s more like acquaintances than family. My husband calls him Joe, so do I have to still call him Uncle Joe? Or what about an aunt-in-law who is no longer married to my uncle, but I still see on occasion? It’s really weird because no one is going to suggest what they want to be called by you after they’ve known you 35+ years.

            1. Michele*

              Do you want to call him Uncle Joe? Does he like to be called Uncle Joe? My parents still call their elderly relatives Aunt Betty or Uncle Bob. It is as much a term of endearment as anything.
              I would never call my parents by their first names. That would never occur to me.

              1. ThursdaysGeek*

                I had an Aunt Betty and Uncle Bob, but Uncle Bob died quite a few years ago, so now all I have is Aunt Betty.

            2. Jamie*

              This is fascinating to me. I don’t have contact with much of my extended family but when I think of them I can’t imagine leaving off the ‘aunt’ or ‘uncle.’ If I saw them again even though it’s been years if they recognized me and said hello I would absolutely come back with the honorifics.

              I know some families where once everyone is an adult it’s all first names, which is totally fine but the thought makes me giggle like a naughty kid – I wouldn’t be able to do it. My mom was almost 60 when she died and it was Aunt Fluffy and Uncle Sneakers for hers until the end.

              1. AnotherAlison*

                On my mom’s side, I call everyone Aunt/Uncle, but my dad’s side is messy and 1.) no one feels particularly affectionate towards anyone else, and 2.) no one cares about that type of thing. (FWIW, my grandmother is still alive and is a super-blunt person. She sent my cousins letters telling them why they shouldn’t marry their soon-to-be spouses and worse and has probably never hugged her kids or grandkids. It’s just not a dear ol’ Uncle Joe kind of family, but that’s what I was trained to call them.)

                My kids call their immediate aunts/uncles by their first names. My sister is only 11 years older than my oldest son, and he had trouble learning to talk, so he called her by her 1-syllable nickname instead of Aunt ReallyLongName. My husband doesn’t claim his half brother, and his sister has always lived far away and doesn’t really have a relationship with our kids anyway. They do call our aunts/uncles by Aunt/Uncle SoandSo for the ones that we call by that.

              2. Tau*

                I find this funny because calling people “aunt” and “uncle” is not how my family, or possibly native language, works – I just call mine by their first names – and in fact for a pretty long time I thought that the whole “Aunt Fluffy and Uncle Sneakers” was a thing that cropped up in books that nobody actually did in real life. The more you know!

                (I also started calling my parents by their first names in my early twenties – it just felt weird and immature to be calling them “Mama” and “Papa” as an adult, and when my brother had a kid I used the excuse that multiple Mama/Papas would just be confusing to switch. My grandmothers were Oma X to the end, though.)

                1. Jamie*

                  That is interesting! I have never known anyone who called their parents by their first names…I don’t imagine it would have gone over well with mine. My mom would have been fun to annoy with it, but I wouldn’t have dared try it with Daddy!

                  I do know a lot of people who call their in-laws mom and dad. That is so amazing to me – I know it’s common but I would never have been able to do it. I stuck with a combo of first names and uhmmm/using nothing which works, too.

                2. Revanche*

                  Ran out of nesting but in response to Jamie:

                  We also do the “avoid addressing in laws by name because what the hell do I call you?” Thing. A friend thought we were nuts but the parents in question never bothered to make it easy for us by telling us what they want to be called and neither of us have bothered asking cuz it’s weird so “uhhmmm” it is.

                  But parents will never be called by their first names. The only people I know who do that are small children who hear their parents being addressed by other adults and mimic them.

                3. Pennalynn Lott*

                  I tried calling my mom by her first name one time when she had “wronged” me when I was in my early teens, and I wanted to disown her as a form of retribution. She shut that sh1t down real quick. :-)

              3. BAS*

                I’m not sure when I started to drop the Aunt/Uncle FirstName to just FirstName! But thinking on that note, when my cousin was a toddler, he thought his mom’s name was Ruth Dear because that is what my uncle often calls her.

            3. Chrissi*

              I grew up calling all of my aunts and uncles Aunt Jan or Uncle Ralph (as examples, obviously). Now I sometimes call her Jan, usually when I call her on the phone, but sometimes use Aunt Jan as well. She (nor the other 9 aunts) seem to mind and I don’t think it was a conscious choice at any point. Just as I got older I started doing it.

          2. Jenna Maroney*

            Oh gosh, I can’t imagine EVER calling my mom by her first name! That’s just not who she is to me.

          3. BAS*

            My sister and I call our mom MUMSY sometimes w/a weird faux English accent to get her attention in public. Works a treat. She hates her first name so I almost never call her by her name whereas I sometimes call my dad by his name.

        3. Soharaz*

          I used to call my friends’ mothers and fathers Ms Natalie, Mr Gabe, etc. so I thought that was the norm. My old college roommate and best friend still refers to my mother in most situations as Mrs Soharaz’s Mom. I don’t call her mother anything because we rarely speak so when we do I just avoid saying it because I am not sure what the norms are in other peoples families!

        4. Marcela*

          @AnotherAlison, your comment reminds me of when my then-boyfriend now-husband asked me to ask my mother how she wanted him to call her. My poor mother spent half a week thinking, after I told her that “Marcela’s mom” was not appropriate and I wasn’t going to allow that :D But then my mother was trying very hard to convince herself that our relationship wasn’t going to last, because he never “asked for my hand” to my parents and she wanted to believe it was him who didn’t want to get married in church. Besides, in my country is very common to call auntie/uncle to your in laws when you are young and not married, and then change to use their first names. At the end she decided to let him call her by her first name, but even today, 10 years later, I don’t think she is perfectly comfortable with that.

      2. Adam*

        They probably figured it out eventually, but if their parents were like mine they had to figure it out solo. Kids of a certain background do seem to have a certain standard of “manners” that we all grow out of eventually to a degree, the Mr./Ms. thing being a key example, but nobody really lets you know when you’re supposed to stop doing that. Kind of like how you get on in to your early 20’s and so many of us wonder “Wait…when exactly am I supposed to start feeling like an “adult” again?”

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Unfortunately this also applies to speaking up. My mom was of the children are to be seen and not heard school of thought and to this day I struggle with when to speak up because I felt like a mute for so long when I was under their roof

          1. Adam*

            I understand that completely. My house wasn’t completely towards the kids must be quiet unless spoken to type (mom wasn’t, step-dad more so), but when I did speak it never felt like I was taken seriously (and I wasn’t) so eventually I stopped trying because why bother? Thank God we can learn better eventually.

      3. That'sMe*

        My parents were like this. If an adult insisted on being called by their first name, we had to go with “Mrs. First Name, rather than just First Name (and it was very rare to even get that concession).

        It actually created problems for me as I transitioned into the adult world, because there always felt like such a huge divide between “grownups” and me.

        1. Jamie*

          My parents did that, too. When raising my kids they had to use the honorifics, but if an adult preferred their first name then that was fine. The lesson was just your default is formal but it’s always trumped by addressing people by the name they wish to be called.

          Probably why I had a zillion dutch aunts/uncles growing up. Too close to the family for Mrs./Mr. to make sense? Then Aunt Fluffybutt and Uncle Baseballmitt it is. I think I was 8 before I figured out with whom amongst the adults in my world who sent me money for my birthday would be on our gedcom file.

          And I’ve proven that if you allow this the kids don’t run amok and call senators by their college nick-names unbidden.

          1. Children's entertainer here*

            I work with 3-10 year olds. When a child asks me my name, I say Firstname. Often the parent who is standing nearby hears this and tells the kid to call me Ms. Firstname. That drives me nuts. I very rarely correct the parent, but I hate it. Occasionally, they will tell the kid to call me Ms. Lastname. In that case, I tell the kid (talking to the kid, not the mom) that he can call me Firstname.

            It drives me nuts for two reasons. First, that’s not what I want to be called. Second, I’m talking to the child. Sorry, Mom, you are not part of the conversation. You do not need to be a part of every conversation your child has. When I see the parents of elementary age kids, I can tell you which parents are going to be calling the recruiter in 20 years to find out why little Johnny didn’t get the job.

            1. Revanche*

              In fairness, at ages 3-10, I don’t think it’s out of line for a parent to still be guiding their kids in what they perceive as manners. If it’s your preference not to have a title then it’s your right to say so but for some of us, in the absence of that knowledge, we’re going to default to what we consider politeness.

              My parents would always have inserted an honorific when I was that age range addressing someone new for the first time because in our culture and family, that title is even more important than their given name. They certainly weren’t helicopter parents just because they wanted me to learn to be polite early on. And if you’d spoken up after the correction saying you actually preferred FirstNameOnly, we would have respected that.

    2. azvlr*

      I recently felt the need to clarify how to address a long-distance work colleague (i.e. someone I had never met personally.) He signed his email Mr. B and I heard others refer to him as such in a meeting. He told me that is was really a nickname that never died and had started years ago when there were two folks with the same name in the group.

      Lesson learned from your comment, if someone calls you the wrong name, say “Please, call me Jane.”

    3. Nina*

      ITA. Titles and manners are definitely ingrained from childhood, and you don’t just wake up as an adult realizing that they change.

      Just before I started college, I read in a prep book that you always refer to your teacher as “Professor” as a sign of respect, so I did. With all of them. I figured the book was right; and at the time, I didn’t know the difference between a professor, an adjunct, instructor, etc. Finally, a teacher gently told me that no, not everyone was a prof, and it was OK to just call them by their first names. Quite embarrassing.

      1. Michele*

        I don’t think you should be embarrased. It is better to treat people with too much respect than not enough. When I was in college, most of the professors told us how they wanted to be addressed. It would be anything from Robb to Dr. S. to Professor Stark. We just deferred to what they wanted to be called. I am surprised that more professors don’t do that.

        1. Nina*

          I think most teachers do inform you how they want to be called, but I was more embarrassed that I had done it for so long without realizing it. I usually just go by first names now. :)

      2. AnotherAlison*

        When I was in college, we had someone who was technically an adjunct who had taught there for 40+ years. Typical adjuncts in the dept. taught 1-2 classes and that was it. He taught ~5 classes/semester, advised students, and did a lot of other things that full professors would do, minus the research piece. We all addressed him as Professor LastName. Calling a 72 y.o. instructor by his first name didn’t seem right.

        1. Onymouse*

          I found that typically “Dr” was a safe choice for PhD-holding non-professors. (but I can see how a 72 year-old adjunct might have gotten his position with only a master’s, and “Mr” sounds out of place, so “Prof” it is)

    4. katamia*

      My parents called all family friends, neighbors, etc. by their first names, and I was never really expected to call anyone other than teachers and doctors by their title/last name (Mr. X, Dr. Y, etc.). I don’t know if this was cultural or just my parents’ general informality toward pretty much everything.

      1. Adam*

        It varies from family to family, so I think your parents may have opted for a more informal route. Every culture has different expectations regarding manners and social graces, but I don’t think I’ve encountered a culture yet were children generally don’t have a slightly more rigid set of rules then adults do.

    5. Michele*

      Same here. We always called adults by the name our parents introduced us as. Some were Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Others were Bob and Betty, but it wasn’t our decision as kids. Many of the people that I work with have Ph.D.s, so when I contact someone initially, I address my emails to Dr. Smith, and sign them, “Best regards, Michele,” so they know to be informal.

  12. AMYR*

    Interesting that you should post this today! Just yesterday, I was applying for a position and when I looked up the hiring manager’s name on the website and noticed that in her bio, she was referenced as “Ms. _____”. Everyone else was referenced using their first name in the bio. I concluded that this was her preference, so I addressed her as “Ms____” in my cover letter. Hope I didn’t make a mistake!

    1. fposte*

      Is there any possibility that that was a gender clue? I’ve seen people do that with ambiguous first names, for instance. I agree that it was the right decision either way; I’m just curious.

      1. AMYR*

        Her first name there and it was most definitely female. She did appear to be the only female employee though (small organization). wonder if that had anything to do with it?

        1. Onymouse*

          I think it’s safe to let this one go. There are a myriad of reasons why this might have happened – maybe she had a bio for another purpose, and it had “Ms” in it, and she just copied it over for this company. Maybe they asked her to write a bio before she started and she didn’t notice that everyone else was described by their first name. etc…

  13. Holly Olly Oxen Free*

    I used to run a summer camp and I had the children calling me Miss Holly. One of my counselors insisted on Mrs. Lastname because they were children and she thought it was disrespectful. Fine. But then she taught the children to call me Mrs. Lastname despite the fact that I wasn’t married and didn’t want them to. I feel like it is an outdated convention for both children and adults. I don’t find it disrespectful for children to call me by my first name. It’s my name. I’m genuinely confused by the whole thing and can’t wrap my brain around why people still think this changes anything.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Not only is that disrespectful toward you (you get to decide what people call you), but it’s outright wrong. “Mrs.” indicates a married woman. She should have used Ms.

        1. Jamie*

          I am sure you’re right, but when you think about it Ms. is a perfect solution to the whole Miss/Mrs. thing.

          I am married and I took my husband’s last name. So on a personal invitation to your cotillion (because we get so many of those) Mr. and Mrs. Husbandfirstname Lastname is correct. And if you are just inviting me to a ladies only meeting of the Committee to bring back big floral hats then Mrs. Husbandfirstname Lastname is fine but Ms. Jamie Lastname is equally correct.

          Point being that the old fashioned bristly people should embrace Ms. because Mrs. means “wife of” so it’s always incorrect with a woman’s first name.

          I always think it’s weird when signing up for some apps/IT stuff it will have Mrs. as an option. I can’t imagine being Mrs. Husband at work in any context so here I’m Ms. where my marital status is as irrelevant as my husband is, in this context.

        2. Tau*

          One of the more frivolous reasons I am deeply glad I finished my PhD is so I can chirp “Actually, it’s Dr!” when I run into a person like that. (I am not planning to insist on the title in general, but I am willing to make exceptions!)

          1. Jamie*

            I had one negative experience with the “it’s Dr” thing – but not in the fun sense in which you’re using it.

            In the last stages of my mom’s cancer an old friend of hers had come to the hospital – none of us had seen her in 20 years. I was actually a toddler last time I met her and none of us knew that she had recently gotten her PhD. Hell, none of us remembered she existed until she showed up.

            I had spent the night on a chair next to my dying mom’s hospital bed, days after a late miscarriage, desperate for a shower, and getting ready to go home to my infant and toddler but I was able to muster up some pleasantries and said “Hello Mrs. Stranger, it’s very nice of you to visit. I know she’d be so pleased to see if she knew.”

            Her reply with tone off the meter on the snottiness scale, “Actually it’s Dr. Stranger I have earned a PhD in asshattery.” The tone was such that she may as well have tacked “dumbass” to the end of the sentence, like I was supposed to be keeping track of the milestones of people I forgot existed.

            So my PSA for everyone is if you want to be called Dr. with a PhD that’s fine and you’re right, but I if someone has no way of knowing and they are clearly moments from becoming a combustible ball of stress I don’t give a sh*t if you were just crowned surgeon general of the world – cut the ego down a notch and let it go. Someone calling you by the wrong honorific doesn’t invalidate the degree. :)

            1. Tau*

              Yeah, wow, that is terrible behaviour and I am so sorry you had to deal with that!

              One of the reasons I don’t plan on insisting is because as far as I’ve heard, insistence on “Dr.” outside academic environments is frequently associated with that sort of behaviour and gets the side-eye as a result. It’s a bit of a pity – I’d quite like to have a gender-neutral title for one, and for another I suspect women tend to get refused the title more than men if they don’t ask for it explicitly. (My mother has a PhD and my father’s a professor – I used to get very upset on her behalf when we received mail addressing him as Prof. but her as Mrs.). But none of that is worth being tarred with *that* brush so I’ve continued going with “Ms.” on forms.

              1. Jamie*

                Honestly I have zero problem with people wanting to use it as long as they are matter of fact about it. It’s when people act like it’s a personal affront if someone gets it wrong that leaves a bad taste.

                But if someone says “Ms.” and you nicely say “actually it’s Dr.” with a pleasant tone the same way if someone called you Elizabeth and you said “please call me Liz” then if someone has a problem it’s on them.

                They key is just not assuming people are getting it wrong on purpose and correcting them without shaming them which you don’t seem like you’d ever do. I’m sure you won’t have that issue.

    2. katamia*

      That’s just bizarre, both that she thought she could overrule what you wanted to be called and that she insisted on something that was incorrect. I’m also very curious if she was married now, since she didn’t seem to know what Mrs. means.

      1. Holly Olly Oxen Free*

        She tried to overrule a lot, from little things like my name, to turning down lemonade and cookies offered to the kids on a field trip in 90 degree weather because “they all brought water and just ate lunch” even though it was supposed to be a treat, all the way to bigger things like forcing the campers to engage in competitive activities for “status” (we are talking 4 year olds here). She was a problem employee.

        Yes, she was married. I think in her mind she thought she was doing me a favor because Miss was somehow less than Mrs. and since I was younger than her, yet the camp director, she was teaching the kids that they should respect me just as much as they respected her.

        1. Jamie*

          What kind of monster refuses lemonade and cookies unless they were being proffered by a known murderer?

            1. Jamie*

              Excellent point. Only an MO of poisoning would give me pause, but an ax murderer isn’t going to taint a perfectly good cookie.

          1. Holly Olly Oxen Free*

            Only horrible people!

            I was really ticked off. Unfortunately, I had stepped away so I didn’t witness the exchange. If I had, I’d have corrected her and gotten the kids their lemonade and cookies. But by the time I came back the kids had moved on to the next activity and I asked what happened to the lemonade and cookies and the woman giving us the tour told me they were refused. Ugh.

            This was a 75 year old woman who, along with her husband, ran a 22 acre farm by themselves and the field trip was her graciously showing the kids around the farm and letting them do some fun farm stuff. She really loved being a caretaker and I knew she looked forward to giving them treats. I felt really terrible.

    3. Sara*

      I would never pull a stunt like what your coworker did…but I’d also never let my students (regular school or otherwise) call me Ms. Sara. I totally hear the argument about it being a dated convention, but it’s one I can’t quite let go of. To me, it feels like an appropriate sign of respect.

      1. Holly Olly Oxen Free*

        Well, this was a summer camp, not a school, which I think is a bit different. I can see how in a school it should fall to one convention. Personally, I just don’t think saying Mrs. Lastname = respect. Addressing me politely, speaking to me in a pleasant tone, listening to what I have to say, and acknowledging my “seniority” with their behavior and responses to me is what equals respect.

        I agree that if you prefer to be called Mrs. Lastname and someone refuses, despite you making that clear to them, that is disrespectful. But the simple act of addressing someone by their first name is not actually less respectful than addressing someone by their last name. It’s simply saying their name. No more, no less.

  14. A good old canuck*

    Most of the time when I apply for jobs the hiring manager or HR will address emails to me as Dear Firstname. But I once had someone who was responsible for hiring send me an email addressing me as Ms. Lastname. The formality of this really through me for a loop. I matched his formality, because it would have just felt weird and inappropriate to address him by his first name. We had a number of email exchanges to schedule an interview, all of them the same level of formality after two or three emails back and forth the formality of addressing someone by their last name seemed like overkill.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      That’s when you’re waiting for Mr. Thomas Smith to sign his email, “Best regards, Tom” and he never does! Those people are the same ones who leave their 10-line corporate mandated email signature with their full name, credentials, and title on every email, and don’t add an informal closing above it.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I count a lot on this. I don’t mind when candidates email me “Dear Ms. Poste,” but when I sign off as Flora I’m doing it to give them a cue.

  15. azvlr*

    In the military, this is never an issue. You know exactly where you stand rank-wise. If they are peers or below, first names are ok unless it’s a formal situation (giving an order or speaking to an officer about that person, for example). Officers and senior enlisted are always called Rank Last Name by junior enlisted.

    Another aspect of military life that made social conventions much easier was knowing how much everyone made. Generally speaking, an E-6 doesn’t socialize with an E-1, or if they do an off-hours event as a work group, it’s less awkward for the lower ranking person to bow out for financial reasons.

    Not sure how this would apply to civilian life, but it did make life easier.

  16. jennie*

    I do internal hiring at my job and people get weird about this even when they know me. We address each other by first names and work together every day but when they apply for an internal posting they’ll address emails to Ms X rather than my first name. It must be ingrained for some people.

    1. Joey*

      I think a lot of that is just them wanting to impress you with their ettiquette. Sort of like when you meet or eat dinner with the parents of someone you date.

  17. Joey*

    I’m not sure I could ever feel comfortable calling a candidate Mr. Ms.. Besides the fact that it’s way more formal than any company I’ve ever worked for what would I do when I’m calling the first time and the name is a unisex one like Kelly, Jamie, or Taylor.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yeah — and if a candidate insisted on it, I’d take it as a sign that weren’t in sync with our culture, would come off oddly when working with clients, etc.

  18. AJS*

    I’ve always been comfortable addressing people by their first names in a business setting. The one thing I cannot do is address old friends of my parents that way, even though most have asked me to do so. It just feels too weird–even though I’m older now than they were when I was a kid.

    1. LaraW*

      My parents are personal friends with my former high school principal, so I do occasionally see him and his wife in a social setting. I can call his wife Mary Kay just fine, but I still to this day have to call him Dr. Conley. I graduated from high school 25 years ago.

    2. Sara*

      Yup! My best friend’s parents are the only adults from my childhood who I’ve effectively transitioned to first names with, but I think it has more to do with her parents and my parents being close than anything else. If my mom is giving me updates on her last conversation with Erin, it feels unnatural to switch to calling best friend’s mom Mrs. Jones in the middle of a conversation, and eventually Erin just became natural.

      I do call my boyfriend’s parents by their first names, but I didn’t meet them until I was 26. If he and I had met in high school or earlier, I’d probably be making everyone feel awkward by referring to them as Mr. and Mrs. LastName.

  19. katamia*

    When I first email someone with my cover letter and resume, I’ll start out as Mr./Ms. Lastname (and will continue with that over email if they respond to me as “Ms. Lastname”), but that’s it. I can’t imagine actually going into an interview and being expected, at that point, to call someone Mr. or Ms. It would be awkward and uncomfortable.

  20. Michele*

    This is an area where I think it is good to err on the side of formality. Initial contacts should be addressed as Mr/Ms/Dr (Not Mrs or Miss). Then, if they respond using their first name, that is your cue to call them by their first name. It is better to appear deferentially respectful than presumptiously rude.

    1. Brooke*

      See, this is what I was thinking too, with my question re: cover letters and whether to use Mr/Ms/etc vs. first name. I’ve always used Mr/Ms/etc but I don’t want to come across as super stiff.

      FWIW, I’m 35 and live in Los Angeles.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        You won’t, if it’s your initial contact (the cover letter). Soooo many people do it that it’s no big deal. It’s when you continue it in future correspondence that it seems off.

  21. brownblack*

    I love this topic. I took a whole course in linguistics in college devoted to this question of addressing people and titles.

    At the same time I took that class, I was taking another class in a different department, taught by a beloved professor who had been there for 30+ years. Except he wasn’t really a “professor.” He didn’t have a doctorate, but was renowned in his field.

    He awkwardly told us to refer to him by his initials “TS” and all his teaching assistants called him that, but it was weird. Half the class called him professor anyway. Some people called him Doctor Smith, not realizing this may have been a bone of contention for him and his faculty mates (for all we knew.) One of my friends, who didn’t like him very much, called him by his official title – “Senior Preceptor Smith” – just to be a jerk.

    1. Chrissi*

      My favorite Econ professor’s name was Jaishankar Raman (I feel weird using his full name, but this is a compliment, so..) and he told us on the first day he didn’t want to be called Professor Raman, but to call him Shankar instead. No one did that at our college, so when students wanted to go up to him and get his attention they’d just walk right up and stand close and wait for him to ask what they wanted. It was really amusing to us and exasperating to him, but he gave up and said we could call him Professor Raman after that.

  22. AnonEMoose*

    I would add, if you are dealing with someone who has introduced herself as (for example), “Rebecca,” please don’t turn around and start calling her “Becky” unless she invites you to.

    My actual first name has a ton of nicknames associated with it – and I don’t like any of them. Using one of them without permission (which I never give) is one of my top five personal pet peeves. At least ask “Do you prefer Elizabeth (not my real name either), or is Liz ok?” Or just use “Elizabeth” until/unless she says “Just call me ‘Beth.'”

    I don’t get it so much now that I’m a little older, but when I was in my 20s, it felt almost constant. I’d introduce myself as “Full First Name” and get “Hi, Nickname That I Hate” in return. And then people would get huffy/offended when I objected, no matter how politely I did so. Usually with something like “Well, I was just trying to be friendly…” while I was thinking “Well, your attempt to re-name me isn’t making me feel very friendly, so clearly it backfired…”

    I guess the up side is that I really try hard not to do that to anyone else.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      I struggle with this at work. I used to work with someone who was called Angie 99.99% of the time. I had one coworker who called her Angela. It seemed like he was renaming her, in this case. But, she chose Angela.Lastname for her email (and yes, I know she chose it because we changed email domains and got to pick), so which name is it, woman? Similarly, I work with a “Matt” who I’ve known since college in the 1990s, and his email is “Matthew.”

      I don’t like “Ali” and the former company president used to call me that, so I know where you’re coming from, but some people need to help themselves. I don’t have “Ali.Lastname” as my email, either.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        It’s possible that Angela/Angie really didn’t care which one people called her. If asked, I’ll always say “I go by/Please call me Full First Name.”

        I always introduce myself and am introduced as Full First Name, and that’s what’s on all my records at work. So it seems like my preference should be clear. When someone tries “Nickname Du Jour,” I will correct them. So again, preference should be clear.

        When it’s not clear, I’d suggest asking “Hey, do you prefer Matt or Matthew?” It doesn’t have to be awkward.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Well, it is awkward now. I guess they probably don’t care if they don’t correct you, but once you’ve called people by one name forever, it’s hard to change.

          I’d forgotten about her, but we did have another coworker who was FullName for at least a year, and then started telling people she preferred NickName. That was a hard switch to make, almost like going from James to Jimmy, and Jimmy feels a little unprofessional, but that’s what is preferred. . .

          1. longsocks*

            That’s funny. I’m pretty sure I didn’t work with you, but at my previous job, I went by FullName, but somehow my manager found out that I often go by NickName outside of work, and insisted that was what I should go by professionally. I honestly didn’t care which name my coworkers called me, so I reluctantly went with it. I had been working there for over a year at that point, so I’m sure my coworkers thought I had actually wanted to go by NickName since the beginning but had been too afraid to bring it up. (I’m pretty sure that’s how my manager made it sound when she told them too.) I actually ended up just going by NickName from the beginning at NewJob, just to avoid that situation again. (Not that NewJob would do that to me. They’re awesome.)

      2. Michele*

        In a situation like that, I just ask the person what they want to be called. Some people have a preference, and some don’t. Personally, only close family members are allowed to shorten my name.

      3. TheLazyB*

        I’ve said this before but in my last job there was a Victoria who would not state her preference as yo whether I should call her that or Vicky – or even say that either was fine. She just kept saying ‘I don’t mind’. Drove me batty.

        1. a*

          “I don’t mind” sounds to me like her saying that you can call her either of them. Usually I wouldn’t call someone Vicky unless they were introduced that way, though.

    2. Gwen*

      That’s always been so confusing to me. Why would I introduce myself to you as Fullname if I wanted you to call me nickname? You can usually trust that the way someone refers to themself is the way they would like you to refer to them. (And if someone asks for you by full name, it’s easy enough to say “Yes, I’m Penelope, but I prefer Penny.”)

    3. Amethyst*

      People get so proprietary over other people’s names, I really don’t get it! I have seen the “I’m going to go with a nickname” thing too. And they do get offended.

      This also happens in reverse for no apparent reason. At my work, there’s someone who goes by what is typically a nickname. People often insist on knowing what it’s short for. She has started saying it’s not short for anything because inevitably those people will call her by what it’s short for, which she hates. Other people decide to just assign her a “full” name and use it, even when it’s not her full name.

      In either direction, it makes no sense to me. The only person who gets to feel ownership about somebody’s name is that somebody.

      1. SerfinUSA*

        I used to go by a nick name that could be short for a number of names starting with the same two letters. People always asked me what it stood for, or tried to guess, and I always answered with a different full name. It amused me in my youth, but later I got tired of things being addressed to me with the male version of the nick name, and eventually started using my actual full name as an adult.
        Now there are very few people who (are allowed to) use that nickname for me, and it amuses me when they do.
        I do recall one time when my mom called the front desk instead of my extension, asking for me by my super-secret family nickname. It was like a prairie dog convention, all the heads poking out of cubbies and offices, having a nice laugh.

      2. ThursdaysGeek*

        I have a brother, brother-in-law, and son-in-law with the full names of Terry, Danny, and Robbie. No, they are NOT Terrance, Daniel, and Robert, and people’s assumptions do not endear.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I have this issue. There are a couple of nicknames associated with my full name, but I always, always prefer that people use the full name at first, and at least until we know each other relatively well. And often people jump to the nickname really quickly in a way that irks me. I used to have a colleague whom I loved and adored, but she would set her out-of-office as, “If you need immediate assistance, please contact ShortName LastName, etc.” I could never get her to stop that.

      At my current job, they kindly asked what I prefer (that was a first!) and when I said, “Well, ShortName is fine, but I’d like to be introduced to clients as FullName,” no one blinked. So I correspond with clients as my full name, and recently one of them used the nickname, and I figured it was time so it was OK. I also never correct people, I just try to gently steer them– as in, I sign my emails with my full name.

      But it kind of irks me how quickly some people will jump to the nickname. I got a thank you note from a recent interviewee addressed to my nickname. I introduced myself as FullName, and while it wasn’t a SUPERHUGEOMGDEAL that she called me “ShortName”, I thought it was… very familiar.

      I’m lucky, though, that no one ever even thinks to call me by one very common nickname associated with my name, that I haaaaaate. I think it’s just too girly and it simply doesn’t occur to anyone. One professor in grad school, but she was sweet and batty, so it was cool.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        With me, it’s the full name, always. Even my husband (when he actually uses my name), calls me Full Name. And my best friend of ::mumble mumble:: years, my parents, and so on… it’s amazing how difficult that is for some people to grasp.

    5. Sara*

      My boyfriend gets this ALL THE TIME. One of my friends from grad school is the worst offender. He’ll ask, “So, how’s Stan?’ And I’m all, “Stanley is fine. He’s blah blah blah.” And then he goes, “Oh, great! I’d love to get together with you and Stan sometime soon.” “Sure, *Stanley* and I would really enjoy that!” “Great! Say hi to Stan for me!” “I will! I’ll be sure to tell **Stanley!!** that you said hi!” And he never picks up on it!

      I, on the other hand, ask to be called by my (normal-for-my-name) nickname immediately, if not sooner, because I think my given first name sounds stuffy.

    6. FD*

      Urgh, I know. I have a really common first name with a million nicknames. I will allow one of them, though I prefer my full first name. But it annoys me when people automatically try to tag a nickname on me without permission.

      A few times a particularly dense person refused to stop after I asked him very bluntly, and I just resorted to refusing to answer when he used it. (When I say bluntly, I mean, I said “I do not like that name, so please don’t use it anymore.” You can’t get much less subtle than that.)

      He eventually stopped but it took a couple of days.

      There were other issues with boundaries with him though.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        When someone refuses to respect my boundary about something this basic, I do consider it a red flag. Especially if they double down with “oh, but Full Name is so formal” (like that’s inherently bad somehow) or “but I’m just being friendly!” (Yes, well, your form of “friendly” is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me…and why is your preference more important than mine, when it’s MY name?)

    7. Elizabeth*

      Posting under a different name for this, which is my actual first name. Also my preferred name. I get a lot of “can I call you Liz?”/”is Liz okay?” questions. I think it’s more polite to say “do you prefer Elizabeth?” because it doesn’t make it seem like you’re turning down a request. There are lots of times that people just start calling me Liz, and correcting them makes me feel snobby (though I know I shouldn’t). I think I’m going to start calling people who call me Liz without asking by the second, third, and fourth letters of their names.

      It’s pretty frustrating for me on a personal level because I actually went by Liz in high school, then went I went to college I decided a fresh start, let’s go by my full name. I hated the person I was in high school, and that name just brings me back to a time I don’t like to remember. Of course I don’t expect people to know that, but I think it’s just common courtesy to repeat back the name people say to you.

  23. Anonsie*

    My only opinions on this is that you shouldn’t get too worked up about someone who uses more formal titles because that’s what they’re used to doing, just indicate that it’s ok to not do that. A lot of us were raised differently and it does vary from place to place.

    I actually think this is another way that growing up in a poorer household/area makes it very difficult to break into the professional world, behaviorally. You do what you were taught to do to be polite and people think you’re sticking out oddly and won’t fit in. There are a lot of ways class differences come up in very casual ways that you don’t think about, and they are another way it makes it hard to move up.

    Additionally, don’t tell someone to stop calling you Ms Soandso because it’s “the language of poverty,” as I once saw a friend admonished. Just throwing that one out there.

    1. Michele*

      Hmm. So defaulting to respect is the language of poverty? And the rich wonder why no one likes them.

      1. Tinker*

        Defaulting to formal forms of address can be a function of socioeconomic class (also a regional marker, or possibly a couple other things), yes. However, that and “respect” are not necessarily the same thing.

  24. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

    Coversation I had with an intern:
    Intern: Thank you, Mrs. X.
    Me: Please call me Ashley
    Intern: But I need to be professional
    Me: I appreciate that. When you work here as an intern, you are a fellow professional, and we call each other by our first names.
    Intern: Well, I just want to be professional.
    Me: Great. You can be most professional by calling me Ashley.

    Interns have to learn not to have adult/child relationships with professionals. This felt like a lot of work!

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Lol. I had a similarly grueling convo with a new grad last week. Mine was along the lines of getting him to run with an assumption instead of sitting around waiting for a vendor to respond. It’s like, “No, you can’t make that decision, but I can and I’m telling you to do it, so freaking do it already.”

  25. Carrie in Scotland*

    I’d expect, that if you were calling them by first name then they should be able to take the hint and do the same.

    An interview I had recently, everyone was first name only basis.

    Emails I send to students, both current and prospective are all ‘Hi, Ziva’ but the odd one will turn around and address their reply as ‘Ms/Mrs lastname’ or sometimes ‘Hi, lastname’ (outlook obviously puts lastname/firstname – nobody reads my signature!)

  26. The RO-Cat*

    Just because: here (Eastern Europe) it’s almost always Mr/Mrs LastName, unless the person specifically requests being called by first name or there is a serious power / age disparity. I’ve seen cases where co-workers with years of sharing the same office would still call each other Mr/Mrs LastName. Even the boss (or, rarely, the boss’s boss) sometimes address some of their subordinates by the last name (I think mainly when the subordinate is older or over a certain age, but that differs. As usual, the capital city is closer to American standards than the rest of the country).

    As a side rant, the only thing for which I regret communism is the title thing. Then, everybody was “comrade”, married or not. Now I have to guess the status and try to put the right title (Miss or Mrs), and apparently I’m not that perceptive…

    1. Michele*

      Do NOT address a woman by marital status unless she specifically tells you to. The proper term is Ms. You don’t change how you address men based on whether or not they are married, do you?

      1. The RO-Cat*

        Well, I guess I’ll pay attention to that, when I come to the States (duly added to other notes to self regarding social interactions). Here I still get corrected when I get it wrong, both ways. “Proper” is somewhat dependent on local culture, wouldn’t you agree?

        1. Nom d' Pixel*

          There is too much historical baggage and sexism with the whole Mrs/Miss thing. If you don’t know, it is Ms. Even if you do know, unless they specifically tell you otherwise (or unless it is Dr. or another title) it is Ms. That is the professional, respectful form of address.

          1. a*

            Just saying, since they’re in Eastern Europe it’s probably not English, and there may not be an equivalent to “Ms.”

            1. Jen RO*

              Bingo :) You can only do Mrs, Miss, or nothing. (And I don’t really get why some women get offended. It’s not like I have a label on my forehead saying I’m not married, so I never assume someone would know that I’m technically a Miss not a Mrs…)

              1. The RO-Cat*

                I don’t really get why some women get offended

                Neither do I. Then again, I’m a man so what do I know?

      2. That'sMe*

        If you read the comment, it’s pretty clear this person is talking about title equivalents in their native language, which doesn’t seem to have a “Ms.”

  27. Kai*

    I work at a university, and when we’re responding to emails from parents of our students, my colleagues will usually write “Dear Mr./Ms. Lastname.” I might be the only one who just goes with the first name, because of the reasons listed in the original post–we’re all adults here, and just because your child is enrolled here doesn’t mean I need to be ultra formal with you. No one’s ever talked to me about it (which I know doesn’t mean anything one way or another), but I sometimes wonder if I’m making a faux pas.

  28. Bangs not Fringe*

    In the interview for my current position, my supervisor was introduced to me as Dr. So-and-So. I only knew this person’s first name from seeing it on forms later. Once I started the position, there was never any indication that I should do differently than continue to use the Doctor title. For the first week or two I called the person Dr. So-and-So with no correction, but ultimately stopped because I realized that everyone else referred to them by their first name.

    If it makes any difference (to you or Dr. So-and-So), I was hired as a research fellow but came to the job with the same (or similar, masters) level of education and experience as several members of staff. I also look quite young for my age (late 20s, look early 20s).

    The telling part was when my supervisor informed me how it was great that I was there because it was almost like I was a real part of the team. Yep, almost. I’ve known since then that I need to leave and the feeling has only grown stronger.

    Not telling me to call them by their first name, while everyone else did was super flipping awkward and predicted some weirdo dynamics that I have not been enjoying. I cannot wait to move on.

  29. MK*

    Here’s the nub, though, some people find it over-familiar to be addressed as Alison by someone they haven’t met before, especially if there is some “seniority” involved or assumed, like a prospective boss. I think starting out with formality is safer; why risk an uncomfortable reaction? Also, I don’t think all that many people would find it so weird to be addressed as Ms.Green; most would just say “call me Alison” without thinking twice about it. However, I agree it’s odd to insist on formality if the other person has clearly indicated they prefer first names.

  30. Mimmy*

    Then I must be weird too because I often address an email recipient as “Mr/Ms”, job-search related or not unless it is clear (e.g. from application instructions) that a first name would be okay. I just never know what’s appropriate!!

    Not job-related, but I emailed the county court house for a question related to upcoming Jury Duty, and they wrote me back addressing me as “Ms. Jones” rather than “Mimmy”. I assumed it was just courteousness on the woman’s part, but I didn’t think that it could be part of a power dynamic (though she was respectful in her answer to my question).


    1. MK*

      It’s not always about power dynamics, it’s about the field and the occasion. Law, at least in my country, tends to be more formal in general; if that was a court clerk, they could be someone who address their boss as “your honor”. Also, a trial is a formal occasion and, if you are going to be a juror, you will be serving in a judicial capasity, so it makes sense for a clerk to be more formal towards you.

  31. Al Lo*

    When I started my job, it took me a while to get used to the fact that my boss goes by a shortened version of her name interchangeably with her full name (more along the informal lines of Bets vs. Betty or Kath vs. Kathy, rather than a stand-alone shortened name like Barb vs. Barbara or Betty vs. Elizabeth). It sounded too informal to me, and I just wasn’t sure whether I could start calling her that — until I realized that, while her email signature said “Betty Smith,” her email itself was “bets@organizationname”. That gave me the tacit permission I needed to start using her full name and shortened name interchangeably, just like everyone else.

  32. Ruth (UK)*

    In my job I sometimes have to call people on the phone (about their hospital appointments). Some of them have titles other than Mr/Miss/Ms/etc. Such as Dr or Rev.

    I am never really sure whether to use it or not. I feel a little bit silly asking “can I speak to The Reverend John Smith please?” etc as I feel I shouldn’t be using the title unless I wish to speak with them in their capacity as a reverend (as opposed to discussing their recent bowel movement which is more likely the case). Same with using ‘dr’ which feels out of place when I’m talking to them outside their professional.. thingy. Other ones are military titles and we’ve even had a few ones with Lady or Lord coming up as their (real legit) title.

    While I feel silly using the titles, the other side is that I have often gotten annoyed responses for NOT using them. ie. “it’s ‘Doctor John Smith actually’ or ‘yes, this is THE REVEREND John Smith”.

    And while I have this from the patients themselves though, I’d say it’s even more common for spouses to get super extremely annoyed and/or offended that you didn’t use their partner’s correct title (even if the actual person didn’t care at all).

  33. Sara*

    I once went through a lengthy email back-and-forth with a hiring manager in which we referred to each other as Ms. MyLastName and Ms. HerLastName, all because I decided to err on the side of formality when she signed her first email “Persephone HerLastName.” Even then, I remember cringing at how awkward it seemed to not just use first names…but I felt like it would look ridiculous to suddenly switch it up to Persephone and Sara.

  34. Thomas W*

    I insist that everyone address me as Dr. Smith, even though my name isn’t Smith and I’m not a doctor.

  35. Kadee*

    I think it seems like a weird thing to get weirded out by! If someone refers to you as “Ms. Last Name”, and you’d rather be called by your first name instead just say, “Please, call me First Name.” While I want candidates to call me by my first name, I don’t find it “weird” that they don’t even if I’m using their first name because I understand that they’re doing so out of respect.

    Now, if the person continued to insist on not using my first name even after I asked them, yeah, that would be weird. Just using it out the outset doesn’t strike me weird at all.

  36. Somewhere over the Rainbow*

    I wonder if there’s a cultural element to it as well?
    Growing up, I’ve never heard my parents address their superiors or elders by first names, there’s always some sort of title attached. In fact, even in school you’d usually address students in higher grades with an honorific, and teachers were addressed by their job titles and rank. So even when I was told to use the ‘Mr’ or ‘Mrs’ titles I felt that wasn’t respectful enough.

    Hence when I started working I found it extremely uncomfortable addressing my (usually much older) managers by their first names, and I felt the same way in interviews. I understand that’s the convention here but it’s just never sounded ‘right’ to me (yes that’s more my problem than anyone else’s, but anyway…) but I know that if I walked into an interview and addressed you as ‘Hiring Manager Green” the whole time I’d just weird everyone out!

  37. AnonThisTime*

    I work in the Science of Teapots and every other person in my office – with the exception of the office administrator – has a PhD in some sort of Teapot Science. I do not. My degree is a B.A. in Not Even Close to Science.

    I get called Dr. all the time by clients. It always gives me a chuckle.

  38. Cajun2core*

    Again, one of the main things to remember is culture. In the south, Mr. or Ms. is still expected at first especially when referring to elders. In this case though it may not always be true, a boss or potential boss may often be older but in any case in the south (at least at first) should still be considered as an “elder”.

    It really bugs me when student workers who are often in their teens or very early twenties, call me by my first name. I am 47.

  39. Person of Interest*

    Here’s a fun twist on this problem. When I started dating my now-husband, his mother and I happened to work for the same company, where everyone called each other by first names. I had never met her before we started dating, and certainly would never have addressed a boyfriend’s mom by her first name in any other situation, but out of sheer terrified awkwardness I just used the convention and called her by her first name whenever I saw her at work. Been married 10 years now, and I still call her by her first name!

  40. Elizabeth*

    This seems to vary a lot by what geographical area you’re in as well. For example, I’m from the Deep South, where using courtesy titles (and sir/ma’am) for people you’ve never met or just met is expected, especially from young/entry-level people. Now that I live in the Mid-Atlantic, almost no one uses them. It took a few months for me to adjust!

  41. Atticus*

    As a Southerner, formalities depend a great deal on familiarity and context. If you are down here, get used to it or prepare to be labeled an uptight so-and-so. My wife is from the North and her employer once commented that her customer service was suffering because she was too dry and distanced with clients. So, yes, it does bleed into business practices in some ways.

  42. In Alaska*

    I feel this woman, even though referred to as good humored and friendly, is difficult. I personally do not feel as if I am demeaned (as in you are a higher level than me) if I call you Mr. or Mrs. The same way I do not feel demeaned to refer to my physician as Dr. ________.
    With many people going by first names I can see how it can be confusing to the new generation. They hear all adults call each other by their first name and are introduced to adult neighbors and friends by their first name. I asked my first grade great niece, “what is your teacher’s name?” She told me that they called her Mrs. ________ but that was only because they didn’t know her real name. I asked why she didn’t think that was the teacher’s real name. She stated that the teacher told her grandma a different name. I am assuming the teacher introduced herself to grandma by her first name. I thought this was hilarious (though it may be because I am an overindulgent great aunt).

  43. Shayna*

    This reminds me of a red flag email I got once where the man referred to me by my first name and then signed it with Dr. Lastname. He seemed much more personable in the interview, but it made me worried that he was treating me like a second class citizen

  44. Steph*

    What about when you address the email to “Ms. Smith” and that person signs her reply with her initials only? For example, the email ends with something like this:


    Should I still address her as “Ms. Smith” in my next email? Or switch to using her first name?

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