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Mrs, Ms and Miss – What’s the difference?

17th April 2020

by Tara W.

Planning a wedding is both beautiful and stressful but knowing certain things can make the process less tricky and more enjoyable. One of those is how to address your female guests on our wedding invitations. Should you use Miss or Ms? Or should it be Mrs? To make this step easier - and avoid any offences - we wrote this useful guide:

What does ‘Miss’ mean?

This title originated in the 17th Century as a contraction of the word Mistress and should be used when you are referring to an unmarried or young woman. Miss can be attached to a name or it can be used by itself as a term of address. If a man has already proposed to a woman with an engagement ring, they will still be referred to as 'Miss' until they are officially married.

For example: ‘Excuse me, Miss.’ or ‘Miss Lucy Peters is the new Head of Commerce’
It can also be used as a way to describe something that a woman represents like ‘Miss Universe’.
If you are referring to multiple unmarried or young women, you can use the plural ‘Misses’.

What does ‘Mrs’ mean?

If a woman is already wearing her wedding ring it is common to refer to her as 'Mrs'. This title originated in the 17th Century, is fully reserved for married or widowed women. It used to be common to include their husband’s first and last name instead of their own after 'Mrs' when addressing a married woman, however, this practice is less frequent nowadays. An example of this practice would be: “To Mrs Robert McAllister”

If you were addressing several married women, the plural would be ‘Mmes’ and ‘Mesdames’.

What does ‘Ms’ mean?

This title is a saviour for when we don’t know the woman’s marital status. Ms originated in the 20th Century and it was very popular from the 1950s onwards, especially during the women’s movement of 1970s since Ms was a fair equivalent of ‘Mister’, a title of respect that doesn’t denote if a man is married or not.

So, wondering when to use Miss and when to use Ms? It’s as simple as what the woman prefers. As Miss is usually used for young women, some adult woman would prefer the title Ms instead of Miss. Also, if you don’t know their marital status, always choose Ms since it will save you from experiencing an awkward moment when you meet their partner.

Mss., Mses, and Mmes are the plurals for Ms.

How to pronounce Miss, Mrs and Ms?

Now that you know when to use each of them, it is important that you know how to pronounce them properly:

Mrs: it is pronounced as /’m?s?z/)

Ms: it is pronounced as /’miz/, /m?z/, or /m?s/

Miss: it is pronounced as /’mis

A prefix cheat sheet:

When to use...
Married Unmarried Unknown Younger Older
Miss * *
Mrs *
Ms * * * *

While it is common to use titles when addressing people it is important to use them correctly to avoid offending someone. Read this guide thoroughly before writing your wedding invitations and be as appropriate and formal as you wish!

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