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Ken
11-20-2011, 01:21 AM
... the go-to would be "Ms." I suppose, since you don't know if the agent is married or not. Even so, might they still be a bit put off if they are married and you say Ms instead of Mrs?

In my desperation to make a good initial impression I've begun to wonder if it might make a difference.

The web complicates matters. Sometimes you do know that the agent in question is married because you happened upon the detail when researching the agent. But if you address them as Mrs they may be like, "Is this person stalking me or something? How do they know I'm hitched?!"

To play it safe, I recently resorted to a third option. I bypass the form of address by using agents' last and first names, e.g. "Dear Jane Doe." There seems to be something wrong about that, too, supposing it's even acceptable as a salutation.

On the verge of losing it, I may go with "Hey Babe," next.

Feedback appreciated.

ViolettaVane
11-20-2011, 01:24 AM
I've never heard of a woman angry at being called Ms. instead of Mrs. I use Ms. exclusively.

Giant Baby
11-20-2011, 01:24 AM
I start with "Ms." in the query, and reply to any response with however they sign their email.

ETA: I wouldn't go with "Babe," personally. If you're thinking about throwing it all out there, "Sexy Pants McBig Brain" would be the preferred salutation, IMO.

veinglory
11-20-2011, 01:25 AM
If they don't specify otherwise on their website/other listing I doubt Ms. will offend.

Ken
11-20-2011, 01:28 AM
... cool. Thanks. I'll go with Ms. from now on.

---------------------

Thanks, below as well vvv

CarlyeKnight
11-20-2011, 01:31 AM
Safest to go with Ms. Also, if you know they're married, who's to say they've taken their husband's name? It's not out of the question for a married woman to keep her own name.

Drachen Jager
11-20-2011, 01:38 AM
Just check, double check and triple check their gender. Some cannot be guessed by name alone, so unless the name is certainly male or female check it.

Maryn
11-20-2011, 02:23 AM
Amen, Drachen. I have an online friend, Ashleigh, a bearded guy who runs a website. Even though he puts "Mr. Ashleigh XXXX" in the contact information, he still gets a lot of people assuming he's a woman and acting differently because of it, especially his US customers.

And I used to work with a man named Bernice. Really.

Maryn, making a list, checking it--three times

Drachen Jager
11-20-2011, 02:34 AM
There's a female agent out there named Spencer, and one other who I mis-identified on my first novel but blushed over when I realised my mistake querying my second.

Ken
11-20-2011, 02:45 AM
... on a related note, I've occasionally mixed up an agent's gender due to a typo. I'll have a query to send for a number of agents and all I'll basically change is the name in the salutation. Inevitably, I forget to switch Mr to Ms or vice versa.

There have been a couple of times I've encountered ambiguous names. One was for an editor at a newspaper. I called the newspaper and asked to be sure I had it right. I didn't.

sheadakota
11-20-2011, 03:51 AM
I once addressed a query to Ellen Ethenburg :chair

Giant Baby
11-20-2011, 04:06 AM
I once addressed a query to Ellen Ethenburg :chair

:heart: :heart: :heart:

Tromboli
11-20-2011, 05:44 AM
Just to reiterate what has already been stated, Janet Ried answered this question at a conference I was at last year. Always use Ms.

Even though she is married she doesn't like when people start a letter with Mrs. Ried because it is her maiden name. She said it creeps her out because it implies that she'd married to her father.

IceCreamEmpress
11-20-2011, 06:23 AM
"Ms." is always the appropriate salutation for a business letter to a woman in the US unless you know the recipient prefers another title, whether it be "Mrs." or "Miss" or "Dr." or "Lt. Col." or whatever.

Of course, one can always use a full name in a salutation. "Dear Chris Jones" is equally formal, and useful when you do not know the recipient's gender.

shaldna
11-20-2011, 01:33 PM
I've never heard of a woman angry at being called Ms. instead of Mrs. I use Ms. exclusively.

I hate it.

I refuse to acknowledge anyone calling me Ms. I got married for a reason and I'm a Mrs.

That said, if someone calls me Miss then I'm happy with that too.

But I just think that Ms. is pretentious and smug.

shaldna
11-20-2011, 01:37 PM
Of course, one can always use a full name in a salutation. "Dear Chris Jones" is equally formal, and useful when you do not know the recipient's gender.

This what I tend to do.

Paul
11-20-2011, 03:30 PM
... the go-to would be "Ms." I suppose, since you don't know if the agent is married or not. Even so, might they still be a bit put off if they are married and you say Ms instead of Mrs?

In my desperation to make a good initial impression I've begun to wonder if it might make a difference.

The web complicates matters. Sometimes you do know that the agent in question is married because you happened upon the detail when researching the agent. But if you address them as Mrs they may be like, "Is this person stalking me or something? How do they know I'm hitched?!"

To play it safe, I recently resorted to a third option. I bypass the form of address by using agents' last and first names, e.g. "Dear Jane Doe." There seems to be something wrong about that, too, supposing it's even acceptable as a salutation.

On the verge of losing it, I may go with "Hey Babe," next.

Feedback appreciated.

And therein lies your problem.

If you wrote 'Yo Dude/ Dudette, you might have a problem, otherwise it's Ms.

But it's the desperate to impress that the problem.

Which might cause you to come across as unprofessional - in this case professional meaning aware how the industry works.


I'm always amazed at some of the attitudes to Agents by a sizable minority of agent seekers.

Agents you don't know or have not corresponded with are strangers. Yes, complete strangers. For sure, you might have a sense of their personality, but you don't know them, and they don't know you.

So act accordingly.

When of course you're corresponding with them, that's different, as you're no longer strangers.


In short, no professional is going to get upset by an issue such as Mrs or Ms, but Ms is the standard option for a first letter of query.

shaldna
11-20-2011, 03:57 PM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ms.

Don't get too bogged down in it, I really don't think an agent or editor is going to flip out over it, and if they do then they probably aren't someone you'd want to work with.

At the end of the day Ms is probably the best option, but it should be noted that some people find being called Ms just as offensive as getting the Miss / Mrs wrong.

In short, you can't please everyone.

Ken
11-20-2011, 05:58 PM
... it pays to ask questions. Thanks!
I never even thought about a woman (like my artist cousin) who hasn't changed her last name after marriage accordingly preferring Ms.. That makes sense now that the reason has been spelled out, in an entertaining way :-) Good to know that a full name can be used if one gets in a bind or prefers it to Ms. or Mrs.. I just sent out some queries with full names. *breathes sigh of relief*

scarletpeaches
11-20-2011, 06:01 PM
I hate it.

I refuse to acknowledge anyone calling me Ms. I got married for a reason and I'm a Mrs.

That said, if someone calls me Miss then I'm happy with that too.

But I just think that Ms. is pretentious and smug.You're in the minority of women I know, then. Most don't see why their title should depend on their marital status. A man's doesn't, after all.

I address all correspondence to women with 'Ms' and if they don't like it, oh well. Chances are we wouldn't like working together anyway.

Ken
11-20-2011, 06:25 PM
You're in the minority of women I know, then. Most don't see why their title should depend on their marital status. A man's doesn't, after all.

... that you, yourself, know. But that doesn't necessarily mean the majority of all women, everywhere. There's nothing wrong with preferring one form of address or the other. Each are equally fine.

Preferring to be called Mrs. is just a matter of wanting to publicly affirm a partnership with another one loves and is loved by. To me that's nice :-) Of course that's not essential. Ms will do too. It's the bond itself that counts.

scarletpeaches
11-20-2011, 06:32 PM
I did say women I know. And, like I also said, a man's title doesn't reveal his marital status. So I don't see why a woman's should.

I remember filling in a form at school and ticking the 'Ms' box. The teacher said 'Ms' was just for...well, I won't repeat what he said, but it was alluding to such women's alleged sexuality.

kaitlin008
11-20-2011, 06:37 PM
You're in the minority of women I know, then. Most don't see why their title should depend on their marital status. A man's doesn't, after all.

I address all correspondence to women with 'Ms' and if they don't like it, oh well. Chances are we wouldn't like working together anyway.

This is true, and also, I'm married, but kept my maiden name. So calling me Mrs. Lastname would be inaccurate. (Although I don't get offended by being addressed as Mrs. Husbandslastname from time to time, because there are just bigger things to get offended over and it's not a wild assumption). And I'm obviously not the only person in the world who got married and didn't change their last name.

I agree with Ken that what a woman prefers to be called is her decision and no one is really wrong or right here, but the fact is that for professional business correspondence, you don't want to make assumptions about someone's marital status, and that's why Ms. works so well.

scarletpeaches
11-20-2011, 06:44 PM
I know a woman who insists her proper, legal title is Mrs Husbandsfirstname Husbandslastname.

I thought she was joking at first, but no, she insists that legally she has his first name as well. :eek:

Bufty
11-20-2011, 07:19 PM
I remember seeing that style of address used often on mail addressed to my mother.

gothicangel
11-20-2011, 07:29 PM
You're in the minority of women I know, then. Most don't see why their title should depend on their marital status. A man's doesn't, after all.

I address all correspondence to women with 'Ms' and if they don't like it, oh well. Chances are we wouldn't like working together anyway.

I agree with SP - and I ain't no man's possession [which is the connotation of Mrs.]

I use Ms, and if people think that makes me pretentious, then that it their problem - not mine.

Ken
11-20-2011, 07:39 PM
... if guys' names had another version besides Mr. perhaps I'd see things differently. Don't think so, but I couldn't say for sure.

Mr. and Mrs. John Smith used to be standard on letters. I think it's still in use. I sent a card to a buddy of mine a few years back and used that to include his wife. Haven't heard from them since. Hmm.

shaldna
11-20-2011, 07:41 PM
You're in the minority of women I know, then. Most don't see why their title should depend on their marital status. A man's doesn't, after all.

I address all correspondence to women with 'Ms' and if they don't like it, oh well. Chances are we wouldn't like working together anyway.

I do seem to be a bit old fashioned about it, I'll admit that. But at the end of the day I chose to get married, I chose to take his name and all that went along with that. It's what I wanted. Others may feel differently, and that's cool.

It's like the surname thing too, Hardly any of my friends changed their name when they got married, and I've seen some of them get really offended when they are addressed as 'Mrs Husbandsurname'. But there's no way of guessing, and so whether it's Miss /Mrs /Ms yourname/hisname it's always a bit of a gamble. :)

Everyone is different. You can't please all of the people all of the time.

shaldna
11-20-2011, 07:43 PM
I agree with Ken that what a woman prefers to be called is her decision and no one is really wrong or right here,

This.

scarletpeaches
11-20-2011, 08:18 PM
One day I'll be Mrs S. Purefoy.

Oh yes. It will be so.

scarletpeaches
11-20-2011, 08:37 PM
...I agree with Ken that what a woman prefers to be called is her decision and no one is really wrong or right here...I would agree with you both if there were a similar expectation that a man should change his name on marriage.

jennontheisland
11-20-2011, 08:52 PM
I changed my name but it was after protest, and changed it back as soon as I moved out, before any other paperwork was filed. I prefer Miss, but it seems there's some kind of diminutive association with it and I'm almost always addressed as Ms. Well, either that or I'm just too old to be a Miss any more.

I leave off the title and use first and last names only regardless of gender or marital status.

jennontheisland
11-20-2011, 08:53 PM
I would agree with you both if there were a similar expectation that a man should change his name on marriage.
My ex's insistence was that it was best if the children have the same name as its parents... he didn't find it amusing when I pointed out that really, without a DNA test, maternity is much more definitive than paternity.

Toothpaste
11-20-2011, 09:11 PM
This.

But weren't you the one who said people who use Ms. are pretentious and smug? How is that accepting people's choices?

I have no issues with women choosing to be referred to however they want to be. That's to me what feminism is all about, the right to make our own choices and not be judged on them.

So for me, I don't choose to be called Ms because I feel superior to anyone. Rather I choose to do it because for me personally I don't think who I am as a person is defined by my relationship to a man. My choice has nothing to do with anyone else, has nothing to do with proving my awesome to the world. It has only something to do with me and my personal beliefs. How that can be smug and pretentious, I have no idea. I mean, I don't look down on people who DO use Mrs and take on their husband's last name. If I did, that would mean looking down at my mother who taught me everything I know about being a strong woman. We all get to make our own decisions in life, and we can still respect and care about each other for those choices.

So let's not toss out insults please.


ETA: As to the OP, it's safest to just use Ms for all the above reasons (is the last name a maiden name, is the woman married or not etc). If you run into a woman who would prefer Miss or Mrs, she will say as much. However, if her reaction is anything other than a simple, "I would prefer to be addressed as such", I'd strongly think twice about whether or not you want her to rep you. How are you supposed to know her preference? She certainly should not be offended by your choice.

Toothpaste
11-20-2011, 09:18 PM
One last comment on the whole gender thing. There have been times I have not been able (even after extensive googling) to determine the gender of the person I'm emailing. In that case, I simply use first and last name, no prefix. It's not ideal, but I'd rather have no prefix, then make an assumption about gender.

IceCreamEmpress
11-20-2011, 10:50 PM
shaldna, if I knew you personally, I would certainly use your preferred honorific of "Mrs." (and I think most businesses should find ways of permitting customers to indicate their preferred honorifics, and once that has been established, the business should use the preferred honorific in correspondence).

But "Ms." is the appropriate honorific for business correspondence in every case where the recipient hasn't registered a different preference, whether it's for "Mrs." or "Dr." or "Staff Sgt." You are literally the first person I have ever encountered who registered any dissatisfaction with it in that context. (Obviously, people who know your preferred honorific and don't use it are being disrespectful of your wishes.)

Corinne Duyvis
11-21-2011, 01:26 AM
I hate it.

I refuse to acknowledge anyone calling me Ms. I got married for a reason and I'm a Mrs.

That said, if someone calls me Miss then I'm happy with that too.

But I just think that Ms. is pretentious and smug.

Foreign person here, so forgive my ignorance, but... I always thought Miss was the one that indicated someone was unmarried, and Ms. was neutral?

And why would Ms. be pretentious and smug? It's totally cool that you want to choose how to be addressed, I'm all for that, but a) people can't always know your preference, so why would you ignore them if they choose the most neutral possible way to address you? and b) for you to defend your right to be addressed one way and then denounce people who choose otherwise is... not entirely cool, especially since they have damn good reasons for doing so.

IceCreamEmpress
11-21-2011, 02:22 AM
Foreign person here, so forgive my ignorance, but... I always thought Miss was the one that indicated someone was unmarried, and Ms. was neutral?

That's correct.

Hence its usefulness in business correspondence; not everyone knows whether the woman they are writing to is married, or if she is married whether she is using her spouse's surname.

Because the thing is that, in English-language usage, you're not supposed to address a married woman who is using her birth surname as "Mrs."

For instance, I'm married and I use my birth surname. Calling me "Mrs. Empress" wouldn't be correct usage (as opposed to, say, Spanish-language usage, in which I'd be "Sra. Empress").

Paul
11-21-2011, 02:29 AM
I know a woman who insists her proper, legal title is Mrs Husbandsfirstname Husbandslastname.

I thought she was joking at first, but no, she insists that legally she has his first name as well. :eek:


I remember seeing that style of address used often on mail addressed to my mother.


Yup. that was the official buzz back in the day. Even as a kid of 5/6 i thought it was weird.


I agree with SP - and I ain't no man's possession [which is the connotation of Mrs.]

I use Ms, and if people think that makes me pretentious, then that it their problem - not mine.
Possession is a bit strong.

It's more of an obsession.

skylark
11-21-2011, 03:03 AM
I agree with SP - and I ain't no man's possession [which is the connotation of Mrs.]

I use Ms, and if people think that makes me pretentious, then that it their problem - not mine.

That's fine - but I use Mrs, and if I tell someone that and they carry on calling me Ms, then I'm going to think they are rude, ignorant and rather stupid. And yes, I do know people who insist on doing just that. Like I need rescuing from being my husband's possession.

I'm perfectly happy to call you Ms if that's what you prefer, but I don't want to be called it.

If I don't know what someone's title is, I use Firstname Lastname, for both genders. If you don't know what title a woman goes by, why are you assuming Ms is polite? It's not polite at all if their actual title is Dr or Professor. Nor is Mr.

(and I know of dozens of women who go by Mrs Maidenname - half the parents on my kids' class contact lists, for a start. Personally I go by Mrs Maidenname Marriedname.)

Paul
11-21-2011, 03:11 AM
T If you don't know what title a woman goes by, why are you assuming Ms is polite?

nothing to do with politeness.
we're talking professional convention.
have you read the above post by Icecream empress? post 36

scarletpeaches
11-21-2011, 03:15 AM
'Ms' is the title least likely to cause offence.

Giant Baby
11-21-2011, 03:26 AM
The thing about the OP's question, though (as many have said), is that "Ms." is the safest bet, if you're not comfortable with the firstname-lastname approach (and it always seems so stiff to me). Agents are absolutely accustomed to it during initial contact, regardless of their personal preferance.

Colleen Lindsay stated, back in the day, that she did NOT like to be called Ms. As I recall, she preferred Miss Lindsay, or Colleen (I'd have to dig up the post, but I'm pretty sure). She understood that Ms. was the norm, however, and didn't let it bother her that queriers didn't automatically know that. I assume she did, however, appreciate it when queriers who read her blog respected her preference.

To date, she's the only agent I've ever heard express dislike for Ms., and you're in no danger of querying her now.

Paul
11-21-2011, 03:29 AM
'Ms' is the title least likely to cause offence.
Is that your permanent position?

jennontheisland
11-21-2011, 03:32 AM
Regardless of whether you think it may be least offensive or not, it's the commonly accepted title when addressing a woman in a professional capacity.


American
...
In business, "Ms." is the standard default title for women until or unless an individual makes another preference known
...
Canadian
"Ms." is the default title for a woman in Canadian usage.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ms.#Usage

JSSchley
11-21-2011, 05:06 AM
I start with "Ms." in the query, and reply to any response with however they sign their email.


This is my M.O., also.

However, I confess to tearing my hair out over Mrs./Ms. for one agent I'm planning to query soon. She recently got married, changed her name, and posted photos of her wedding all over her blog. I think it's great, and I'll certainly make sure I use her married last name, but since I'm 100% certain of her marital status, I feel weird using Ms.

I probably will anyway. I just feel it's more professional.

And, perhaps I should focus on this as one more reason I should finish my doctorate. I'll be a lot less confusing to everybody else as "Dr. Lastname." :D

Ken
11-21-2011, 05:49 AM
There have been times I have not been able (even after extensive googling) to determine the gender of the person I'm emailing.

... as a last resort I've used Google's image search. Photos of agents at conferences and the like are often posted. This helped me when I was trying to figure out if an agent I wanted to query was was actually the one whose contact info I had. (I forget the specifics.)

If you meet an agent at a conference or the like and aren't entirely sure if you got their name right an image search can also be helpful.

Susan Littlefield
11-21-2011, 05:51 AM
If unknown as to how she prefers to be addressed, Ms. is the default.

Giant Baby
11-21-2011, 06:27 AM
I've no doubt that if intelligent women, like Shaldna and Skylark, wanted to avoid the title altogether in their business correspondence--such as queries--they'd mention it somewhere in their guidelines. It's their preference, and should be respected if understood. But, if an agent deviates from the current norm, she's gotta send up a flag if it's an issue. How on Earth is a person know, otherwise?

Ms. is the business norm, and has been for some years. As was touched on earlier, my mother was also "Mrs. DadsFirstName DadsLastName" until it sort of faded out after I went to college. I can't imagine googling up an agent's spouse's name and assuming that model, just in case she prefers it. It was valid for my mother when she got married, and throughout my childhood. She's since let it go. These things change. If I'm not told otherwise, I'm going with the current business norm. In ten years, perhaps the norm will actually be, "Hey babe." We don't know.

And frankly, adding the preference to submission guidelines is not a bad way to check that queriers actually read them.

"To query me, please send a thoughtful letter and the first five pages of your manuscript, imbedded in the body of the email, to my attention: Mrs. Agentosity. Query (at) Agentosityagency (dot) com."

shaldna
11-21-2011, 07:51 PM
But weren't you the one who said people who use Ms. are pretentious and smug? How is that accepting people's choices?

I accept and respect that people can refer to themselves what ever way they choose.

But I'm allowed to have an opinion on it too.

scarletpeaches
11-21-2011, 07:53 PM
The words 'pretentious' and 'smug' don't sound all that accepting and respectful, is what Toothpaste was saying.

Bearing in mind, people will have an opinion on women who base their name on their husbands', too.

shaldna
11-21-2011, 08:10 PM
The words 'pretentious' and 'smug' don't sound all that accepting and respectful, is what Toothpaste was saying.

Bearing in mind, people will have an opinion on women who base their name on their husbands', too.

True. I didn't mean it sound insulting, and apologies to anyone I managed to offend.

scarletpeaches
11-21-2011, 08:12 PM
Oh, I call it a wasted day unless someone offends me and I get into a fight about it. :D

Toothpaste
11-21-2011, 08:17 PM
I accept and respect that people can refer to themselves what ever way they choose.

But I'm allowed to have an opinion on it too.

When you say Ms. pretentious and smug, that's not respectful. That's saying that those who choose to use Ms. are pretentious and smug. That's judging people based on their choices, drawing a conclusion about their personality based on a choice. You might think that you weren't judging that it's "just an opinion" but you then have to make a choice. Are you the person who agrees with "what a woman prefers to be called is her decision and no one is really wrong or right here" or are you not? That's what I called you out on. If you want to insist that Ms. is pretentious and smug, that's fine, but that then means that you actually do think that the choices of certain women ARE right and others ARE wrong.

So yeah. It's cool if when you originally posted "pretentious" and "smug" it was spontaneous and just an emotional reaction and you've since amended your opinion on the subject. But what you've so far written here does not show that you offer the same kind of respect towards women who choose Ms. as you would like offered to you for choosing Mrs.



ETA: lol, and in my writing my post you responded and apologised so all is well again. :) Yay! I love communication!

scarletpeaches
11-21-2011, 08:33 PM
The argument comes from the woman taking the man's name. As I asked somewhere else in this thread, where is the expectation that the man should take his wife's? It's one-sided. That is what people object to. It's a societal thing rather than personal against you. Take your husband's name if you want. Who cares? It's no-one else's business.

But the fact remains, 'Mrs' is a bit possessive, because there is no male equivalent. If there were, it'd be much more fair when it comes to marital name changes.

lauralam
11-21-2011, 10:03 PM
In a few queries I've just used their full name: Dear Kelly Rheinhart, or whatever, leaving out the Ms altogether. I think it's easier and I don't think people would find it rude. One less thing to worry about making a mistake with.

Toothpaste
11-21-2011, 11:51 PM
Okay, I'm kind of stunned to return back to this thread thinking we were all good only to see deleted posts referencing snark etc. And then SP's post . . . and. . . well I'm gleaning that for some reason because I choose Ms that somehow that is a statement against others choosing Mrs. But it is no more the case as you choosing Mrs being a statement about me choosing Ms.

Let me offer an example why I truly don't look down on people who choose Mrs and their husband's last name even if I choose not to:

My friend got married this past summer and took on her husband's last name. Why? Well her maiden name was actually her father's last name, but she hadn't seen him in years (until of course the wedding). So technically she felt very little relationship to that last name. But seeing as she'd had it all her life, she didn't feel a relationship to her mother's maiden name either. Her husband and his family is large and welcoming. Her family, though equally welcoming, is very very small. It's clear that not only did she want a new last name, but that she was very excited to be joining his family. And so her taking on his last name was far more meaningful to her than keeping her maiden name. This makes all the world of sense to me and I think it's beautiful. And though it's so weird to see this girl I've known since we were 12 have a new last name, I really respect her choice.

Me? Well there's other stuff going on. First of all, I'm an actor and an author and my name is my brand. I own it - as far as the acting union is concerned, there can't be more than one person with a name, hence actors changing their names all the time. Second of all, I'm very proud of being a member of my family, and having the last name I have. Third, as far as the Ms vs Mrs thing goes, I personally don't see why it matters if I'm married or not and why people need to know that particular status. Further, in keeping my last name, it would be odd to then have Mrs. in front of it because that would be my mom. I didn't marry into my last name, I was born with it. So it seems inappropriate to have Mrs for that reason too.

None of my reasons are MORE valid than my friend's reasons for changing her name. Nor your reasons for wanting to be Mrs. They are deeply personal to me. Just as I happen to like homes that have dark red walls, and narrow hallways, and the kitchen closed off from the livingroom. This doesn't meant that I don't also think bright open concept living spaces aren't gorgeous and I don't love spending time in the homes of my friends. It's just that we are all different people and like different things.

Truly. My choice of Ms has NOTHING to do with anyone else. And certainly does not reflect an attitude towards people who choose anything different.

Ken
11-22-2011, 12:42 AM
... maybe when a couple get married they could decide on a new last name for themselves, rather than settling on their current ones? If Jane Doe and John Smith got married for instance they could call themselves Jane Greer and John Greer. I think that'd be kinda neat.

IceCreamEmpress
11-22-2011, 01:39 AM
... maybe when a couple get married they could decide on a new last name for themselves, rather than settling on their current ones? If Jane Doe and John Smith got married for instance they could call themselves Jane Greer and John Greer. I think that'd be kinda neat.

I know some couples that did that. I also know some couples that mushed their names together, so instead of being Chris Johnson and Terry Roddenberry, they became Chris and Terry Roddenson.

Ken
11-22-2011, 02:22 AM
I know some couples that did that. I also know some couples that mushed their names together, so instead of being Chris Johnson and Terry Roddenberry, they became Chris and Terry Roddenson.

... that's neat. It's sort of a way of getting a fresh start.

melnve
11-23-2011, 03:07 PM
Just to reiterate what has already been stated, Janet Ried answered this question at a conference I was at last year. Always use Ms.

Even though she is married she doesn't like when people start a letter with Mrs. Ried because it is her maiden name. She said it creeps her out because it implies that she'd married to her father.

This is exactly what I was going to say! I am married, but I hate it when people address me as Mrs. because I kept my own name (the term maiden name creeps me a out a little too...).

SummerSurf57
11-23-2011, 03:19 PM
Ms, but if the possibility of them being annoyed concerns you, use To Whom It May Concern.

Corinne Duyvis
11-23-2011, 05:04 PM
Ms, but if the possibility of them being annoyed concerns you, use To Whom It May Concern.

No. You never address an agent that way. Use their name.

JanetO
11-23-2011, 08:11 PM
63 posts on Ms. and Mrs.? Sounds like someone should write a book proposal on the subject. :D

Maryn
11-23-2011, 10:24 PM
Ms, but if the possibility of them being annoyed concerns you, use To Whom It May Concern.Never. Never-never-never. This proves the author unprofessional and too lazy to do the homework to determine the sex of the agent.

It's best to be sure you're right before giving advice.

Maryn, just sayin'

Corinne Duyvis
11-24-2011, 01:52 AM
Even worse: if I were an agent and someone addressed a query letter like that I wouldn't assume they were too lazy to figure out my gender, I'd assume they were too lazy to figure out my name.

jennontheisland
11-24-2011, 02:01 AM
Ms, but if the possibility of them being annoyed concerns you, use To Whom It May Concern.
No.

IceCreamEmpress
11-24-2011, 03:38 AM
Ms, but if the possibility of them being annoyed concerns you, use To Whom It May Concern.

"Dear Eglantine Weissberg" (or whatever the agent's actual name is) is always the best choice if you don't want to use an honorific.

Chiquita Banana
11-27-2011, 12:16 PM
I know some couples that did that. I also know some couples that mushed their names together, so instead of being Chris Johnson and Terry Roddenberry, they became Chris and Terry Roddenson.


I have an friend whose last name was Marshall and she married a guy with the last name Stevens. They changed both their names to Marshens and had an outer space themed wedding. It was a blast (off) ba da bing. :D

Interesting thread. I never would have dreamed that someone might label me as pretentious and smug for choosing to go with Ms. I wish I had some fabulously sophisticated reason for doing so, but for me, it's just 'cause I don't want to be associated with the term Miss (to me, the title is outdated and used only for young girls, sad old spinsters and eccentrics). However... I respect the right of any woman to call herself Miss - I just don't know any who do personally (my single gal pals go for Ms.) hence my impression of the Misses mentioned above. Would be interesting to have a chat with someone who does prefer Miss...

To the OP: I really don't think you should worry about offending people by using the term Ms. This is the first time I've ever heard of anyone being offended by it and even if some agent is, surely she'll accept that it's the norm in the business world.

I think Miss is pretty much dead in America, but it's alive and kicking in the UK. When I moved to London, they actually put Miss firstname lastname on my debit/credit cards, so whenever I made purchases, I got the whole "thank you, Miss" thing, which was wacky. Until then, no one's called me Miss since I was probably sixteen except my mom when she was annoyed. ;) Still, my Brit gal pals preferred Ms. Anyway...

aruna
11-27-2011, 01:35 PM
I once addressed a query to Ellen Ethenburg :chair

ouch!


I know a woman who insists her proper, legal title is Mrs Husbandsfirstname Husbandslastname.

I thought she was joking at first, but no, she insists that legally she has his first name as well. :eek:

I had a cookbook, once, written by American housewives. All the recipes in it were written by various women called Mrs Husband'sfirstname Husband'slastname. I found it very weird.

As for gender-specific first names: never forget there's a female author called Lionel Shriver!

Me, I once submitted to and corresponded with a William Morris agent called Jay Mandel. I thought it was a he; but it also seems a little bit feminine. To this day I don't know if Jay is a he or a she -- and I did research; but no results.

I married in Germany where everyone whether married or unmarried is Frau or Herr soandso. (Woman or Man sosandso). It does make things easier. I also took his last name because we had children already. It was a big deal for me for us all to have the same name. Because:

my mother got divorced when I was 3, in 1954. She was a majorly motivated feminist, so of course she took back her maiden name; and called herself Miss. This was before the days of Ms. So there was I, with my dad's last name, living with my mother who called herself Miss Maidenname. My mother was one of the first women in the whole country to get divorced. It just Wasn't The Done Thing. And to be the daughter of a Miss Maidenname -- to me, it signalled illigitimacy, which of course in those days was a huge scandal. I hated it with all my guts. Whereas I loved my dad's last name. It's an unusual Dutch name and there was only one family in the country with that name, and one of them was pretty famous for his political activity. Everyone in our family boasted that "Uncle Rory was in prison!" for defying the British colonial regime. So I rather like that name.

Nevertheless when I was published I cut it short at the behest of my publisher. I might use it again for a different sort of book. And right now I am using yet a different pen name.

So I guess I'm still a rose, no matter how many names I have. (Do I smell sweet?)

skylark
11-27-2011, 02:55 PM
I work in a profession where the accepted default is Dr, for both genders.

So I was rather embarrassed to discover that the person with whom I'd had a long IM discussion which I'd then summarised in an email to multiple senior people, while correctly addressed as "Dr", should have been referred to using "she" not "he".

I am not very good with Chinese names :(

shaunta
12-07-2011, 09:10 PM
I always use Ms.

I figure so many people do, that even if someone would rather be called Mrs., they get that in this industry most people don't and won't get too offended.

I don't mind Mrs. Married Name for myself in my daily life, but I use my maiden name for writing and being called Mrs. Maiden Name is strange because it isn't me.

My son uses my ex-husband's last name and getting called Mrs. Ex-husband routinely during dealings with his school is a little disconcerting. LOL

Bushrat
12-07-2011, 10:46 PM
Bearing in mind, people will have an opinion on women who base their name on their husbands', too.

Which is kinda silly because whichever way we look at it, women are sturck with a man's last name and don't have their own, female hand-me-down last name.
A woman's "maiden" name is her father's last name, and even if her mom choose to keep her last name - that came from her father.

veinglory
12-07-2011, 11:01 PM
One reason to get a PhD is that you can side step gender-specific salutations altogether, and yet still be pretentious and smug.

IceCreamEmpress
12-07-2011, 11:06 PM
Which is kinda silly because whichever way we look at it, women are sturck with a man's last name

In most cultures, yes.

Of course, some cultures don't even have last names!

veinglory
12-07-2011, 11:09 PM
In most cultures, yes.

Of course, some cultures don't even have last names!

And many people in those countries are not actually stuck with anything. There is no legal requirement to change your name at all, let alone to your husbands. It is just a matter of how many times you are willing to keep explaining the matter to people to borders, banks and schools.

IceCreamEmpress
12-07-2011, 11:22 PM
People are often resistant to imagining that things might be done differently elsewhere. Obviously, the nation of China doesn't grind to a halt because married couples have different family names, and Indonesia, Afghanistan, Burma/Myanmar, Tibet, and a bunch of other countries figure out how to keep official records on single-named people with no family names at all.

scarletpeaches
12-08-2011, 01:15 AM
As for gender-specific first names: never forget there's a female author called Lionel Shriver!One of my favourite writers, but of course, she chose to give herself that name; it wasn't chosen by her parents at her birth.
A woman's "maiden" name is her father's last name...Not necessarily.
...even if her mom choose to keep her last name - that came from her father.Again, not necessarily.

It isn't always a matter of 'choosing' to keep whatever last name the mother has.

AlishaS
12-08-2011, 02:02 AM
This is my rule of thumb...

Married agent (and I know for sure) Mrs.
Not married agent Miss
I have no freakin idea what their marital status is (which is more offten then not) Ms.

Ken
12-08-2011, 04:18 AM
... am fully comfortable with using Ms. thanks to the bulk of responses here. It's one less thing to fret about when constructing queries.

It seems like the distinction between Ms and Mrs is more of an issue in every day dealings, going by responses in favor of Mrs or Ms which were also helpful in getting a complete handle on the issue. Thanks for them too.

Fortunately, Ms sounds so alike to Mrs that if you address someone verbally and use the incorrect one they won't even know ;-)

I recently ran into another gray area with Ms/Mrs. I queried an agent who uses both her maiden name and her married name as I suppose. It is possible that the second of three names she uses is her middle name, but I tend to doubt it. (Not sure why I'm so confident about that?) I opted to address her as Ms. Last-of-the-three-names:

Jane Smith Doe = Ms. Doe

I had a slight concern that I was dissing her maiden name in doing so. Should I have used Ms Smith Doe? (It turned out to be neither here nor there. Due to my usual luck, the agent was on maternity leave as indicated by an auto-response I received moments after querying.)

------------------------

Thanks SP.
I'll go by that VV

scarletpeaches
12-08-2011, 03:21 PM
If someone is called Jane Smith Doe, I'd call her 'Ms Doe' because the last word is her...well, last name.

However, if it were hyphenated (Jane Smith-Doe), I'd treat the double-barrel as her surname and address all correspondence to Ms Smith-Doe.

J.Reid
12-27-2011, 06:57 PM
The old etiquette was indeed Mrs. Husbandfirst HusbandLast. Mrs HerOwnFirstname Husbandlastname indicated she was divorced from the old fart. Look in the wedding announcements from the 20's and 30's in the New York Times and you'll see instances of Mrs. GotRocks marrying Mr. GoldDigger which always made me wonder if Mr. GotRocks was invited to the wedding.

And I'm sure you've noticed in old novels that Miss FamilySurname is what one calls ONLY the eldest daughter; Miss HerFirstname is what you call her younger sisters.

Yes there will be a test, and it's called your query.

Ok, that's a joke.

Call me anything you want, just send me a query about a novel I'll step all over Miss GotRocks to read.

And if you're still worried: Dear Janet Reid is utterly safe. Our Mr. Sherman receives queries addressed to Ms Sherman more than he should.

Ken
12-28-2011, 03:48 PM
... times sure have changed, for the better.

I just looked in the Nancy Drew novel I abandoned reading and sure enough Nancy, the eldest daughter, is addressed as 'Miss Drew,' by Officer McCann. The book, Clue of the Leaning Chimney, was pub'd in 1949, though extensively revised in '59 as it unfortunately turned out. (Her character was made more docile. Am currently in quest of an original copy.)

Thanks for the replies.

jjdebenedictis
12-29-2011, 12:27 AM
People are often resistant to imagining that things might be done differently elsewhere. Obviously, the nation of China doesn't grind to a halt because married couples have different family names, and Indonesia, Afghanistan, Burma/Myanmar, Tibet, and a bunch of other countries figure out how to keep official records on single-named people with no family names at all.Not to mention countries where your children's last names are different from your own, e.g. Alfson and Ingridsdottir.

I'm another person who dislikes being called anything except Ms. The idea of my marital status factoring into how I'm viewed by others just sticks in my craw. If men are Mr., then I'm Ms.

But I also associate Mrs. with my mother's generation and don't like to think of myself as being that old, so some of my reaction is sulky vanity, not politics. :p

Saint09
12-29-2011, 11:46 AM
And I used to work with a man named Bernice. Really.


I used to work for a guy whose last name was Gurley. Yes, it was pronounced "girly". That was always weird writing him as "Mr. Gurley". We all called him Mr. Gurley Man and somehow never managed to get fired.

bearilou
01-02-2012, 05:13 PM
Call me anything you want,

...just don't call me late for dinner! ba dum ching

:D

Good thread. Something to keep in the back of my mind when I start the query process.