How should I use titles like "Mr." and "Mrs."?

Titles are the words that go in front of someone's name. In American English, the most common salutations are "Mr.", "Ms.", "Mrs.", and "Miss". There are a few others as well like "Dr." Here's an explanation of each of the common titles:

  • "Mr." (pronounced "mister") is used when you're addressing a man.
  • "Ms." (pronounced "miz") is for addressing a woman. It can be used for all women, so people often use this instead of "Mrs." or "Miss" in spoken English.
  • "Mrs." (pronounced "miziz") is for a married woman. When you're saying or writing someone's full name in a really formal situation, you should find out if they are married or not and use the correct salutation - "Mrs." or "Miss".
  • "Miss" (pronounced "miss") is for an unmarried woman. Use it with female children and teenagers.
  • Other titles include "Dr." (pronounced "doctor"), Professor, Judge, President (of a country, not a company), Governor, Officer, General, Nurse, and some other job titles).

You normally use these titles with a person's last (family) name. Using a title with a person's first name sounds a little childish. That's OK if you're speaking with really small children. For example, preschool teachers ask their students to call them "Miss Jenny" or "Mister Jason".

So when should you call someone by their title? Here are a few rules:

  • Students should call their teachers by their titles. For high school and below, use "Mr., "Ms.", etc. For university, use "Professor". As a sign of respect, some teachers will also call their students by their last names and titles.
  • If you work in a store, a restaurant, a bank, etc. it's polite to call the customer by their title and last name.
  • At formal events like political forums, graduation ceremonies, or in (legal) court, people often use a title plus a person's full name ("Mr. Aaron Knight", etc.)
  • In the workplace, people usually call each other by their first names, with no title. That's even true in written email communication, and even when you're speaking to someone from another company. Calling a person by their title seems formal and creates a distance between people.
  • Friends and family members almost never address each other with a title, except perhaps as a joke.

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