Forms of address: names and titles

Addressing people by name

It is very important to address people correctly. If a man introduces himself as James, call him James. If he introduces himself as Jim, call him Jim. If he introduces himself as James Brown, address him as Mr. Brown until he asks you to call him James (or Jim).

If a woman introduces herself as Susan, address her as Susan, not Sue or Susie. If she says that her name is Susan Sawyer, address her as Ms. Sawyer until she asks you to call her Susan (or Sue).

Using titles

The titles Mr., Mrs. and Ms. in addresses are used with last name.

Mr. [‘mistər] (man), for example: Mr. Smith, Mr. Trenton;

Mrs. [‘misiz] (married woman), for example: Mrs. Baker, Mrs. Johnson;

Ms. [miz] (married / unmarried woman), for example: Ms. Gray, Ms. Taylor;

Miss [mis] (unmarried woman), for example: Miss Green, Miss Keaton. As a title, Miss is used with last name. Miss / miss is used without a surname when addressing an unfamiliar young woman.

Some titles are used with or without a surname:
Dr. Brown / Doctor
Professor Brown / Professor
Captain Brown / Captain

As a rule, titles in addresses are used with the last name and not used with the first name. Children sometimes address the elders as Miss Lillie or Mr. John.

Informal forms of address

Informal forms of address are used in the family and with close friends. Generally, it is advisable for language learners to avoid using informal forms of address, because they may be interpreted as familiarities.

Informal forms of address in the family are generally used without a name, for example: Dad, Daddy, Mom, Mommy, Granny, Grandma, Grandpa.

Children often use some forms of address in the family with a name, for example: Aunt Molly, Uncle Jim.

Informal terms of endearment are used in the family or with close friends, addressing male or female persons, for example: dear, darling, baby, honey, sweetheart, sweetie, sugar, precious, sunshine.

With friends and sometimes with strangers (only in informal situations, use with caution): buddy, pal, friend, partner, mate, guys, brother, sister.

Addressing strangers in public places

Sir – addressing a man:
Sir, could you help me?
Excuse me, sir, could you tell me where the bank is?

Madam – addressing a woman:
Excuse me, madam, I didn’t hear what you said to me.

Miss – addressing a young woman:
Excuse me, miss, is this Oak Street?
Excuse me, miss, could you show me English textbooks, please?

Forms of address in correspondence
The salutation at the beginning of a letter is a phrase like Dear Sir (or Dear Madam, Dear Mr. Smith, Dear Ann, etc.) that serves as a standard greeting in correspondence. The salutation is followed by a comma in both formal correspondence (Dear Sir,) and informal correspondence (Dear Robert,). But a colon is used after the salutation in American business correspondence (Dear Sir:).

Formal forms of address are used in the salutation in official and business letters, for example: Dear Mr. Smith, Dear Ms. Taylor, Dear Professor Green, Dear Dr. Briggs. If you don’t know the surname of the person you are writing to, you can use the following forms of address in the salutation: Dear Sir, Dear Madam, Dear Sir or Madam.

Less formal forms of address are used in the salutation in the letters to the people you know personally and call by name (i. e., friends, relatives, coworkers, acquaintances), for example: Dear Julius, Dear Charlie, Dear Veronica, Dear Annie.



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Forms of address: names and titles