YOU ASK…WE ANSWER….YOU DECIDE
Question: Do you always address an older person or higher-up professional with Mr. Mrs. or Miss and their last name until they specify otherwise? Or do you use first names immediately when introduced?
When do you use only a person’s first name? When do you use Ms.?
Callie’s Answer: I am usually good at using Mr. or Mrs. but I do slip. Most of the time the older or higher- up professional will correct me and tell me to call them by their first name.
With my friends’ parents, I still use Mr. or Mrs., unless they tell me otherwise. I use Ms. when I do not know if they are married or not. It is usually the general introduction when neither is known.
Lillie-Beth’s Answer: For me, it depends on the situation and whom I’m meeting. If it’s a casual setting, usually I call the person by their first name; if it’s someone older than I am (or traditional), I usually start out with “Mrs.” or “Mr.” (or Ms. when the person is divorced, like I am). It seems like these days, everyone is so casual with each other and on a first-name basis right away. It’s easier for me to answer this question as it pertains to my children. In introducing my children to adults, I always start out with the formal Mrs. or Mr. (Last Name) to show respect. Sometimes the adults tell my children to call them by their first names, and after that, it’s OK. I also follow my mother’s tradition for my kids and have them address my close friends with a “Miss” in front of their first names, like “Miss April” or “Miss Elaine.” I like the distinction between children and adults, although I’m also often in the minority.
One of my favorite moments as a young bride was when a special group of my mother’s friends, whom I had addressed as “Mrs. So-and-So” my whole life, told me to call them by their first names. Since they were close to my mom, I felt close to them, too, and it was nice to finally be “initiated” into their friendship on a first-name basis. So here’s to Nancy, Kay, Kirk, Lynn, Barbara and Marilyn, as well as Miss Lela, Miss Ann, Miss Jeary, Miss Gerre, and more.
Another note: Miss Manners, author and etiquette columnist for the Washington Post who is also known as Judith Martin, prefers that people don’t start out on a first-name basis. “There is no such thing as instant intimacy,” she writes in her book, MIss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior,” updated in 2005.
Helen’s Answer: Today, when people suggest or request that I use their first names, I do. I am sensitive to using first names of people who I have just met and feel like I should use caution and be more a little more formal on that first encounter. But, at my age, I generally use people’s first names immediately. Maybe a great-grandmother/father gets a Mr. or Mrs. out of me.
My children were taught to use the Mr. and Mrs. titles, unless that person told them to use their first name. We threw in the southern idea of using the title of ” Miss” and the first name with close friends. . In the professional world, “Ms.” is hard for me to say because my generation of people used the “Miss” title for unmarried women. When I introduce people, I might say, “Mr. Thompson, this is Mr. Jones,” using rank to determine who is introduced first. In a social situation, gender determines who I introduce to whom:” Miss Thompson, this is Mr. Jones,” or “Linda, this is Tom.”
I use this rule for introductions: “Mrs./Mr.” older person, this is “Mrs./Mr.” younger person.
(Callie Gordon, a college sophomore, is a debutante this year and has been in many new social situations recently. Lillie-Beth Brinkman is a former debutante and currently the assistant features editor for The Oklahoman. Helen Wallace has written a social column for The Oklahoman for many years and has been on various local Ball committees.
This group does not always agree (via age differences), but they ALL see the need for proper behavior.)
Ask a specific etiquette question and you will get three answers…Then you decide for yourself how you would handle the situation. The answers have information for every age range….Callie is 20-something; Lillie-Beth is 40-something, and Helen is 60-something.
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