Curious Questions #1 – Miss, Mrs. or Ms?

When and how do you use these formal titles for females? Should you call every woman Mrs.? Miss or Ms.? Ms. Maura and Ms.Harp will tell you here.

Sample transcript


Maura: This next question is an interesting one. And the answer is easy too. As a teacher I am correcting people all the time who mispronounce and misuse the formal titles. These titles are used in business or formal situations, often between people you do not know. These titles are Mr. Mrs. Miss and Ms.

Harp: The question we received is from Junko in Hiroshima. Junko asked: Ms., Miss, Mrs. When you call a woman you are not familiar with, do you say “Ms.”, “Miss” or “Mrs.” Is it safe to use “Ms.” all the time?

Maura: The answer is a resounding yes! It is safe to use Ms. all the time. Ms. is spelled M-S. The s is pronounced with a z-sound.

Harp: For all males, boys and men, everywhere at anytime in their life, married or otherwise Mister is the title used.

Maura: For females it is a bit more complicated. Historically we had two choices for females. Miss M-I-S-S was for any female unmarried and young. Once married the woman took her husband’s last name and was then missus, actually spelled M-I-S-S-U-S, but more commonly written as an abbreviation as M-R-S. So women had two distinctions: married or single. But nowadays there are so many different kinds of statuses for women, married, single, divorced, separated, common-law, widowed.

Harp: In case you don’t know those last two terms Maura mentioned… A widow is the name for a woman whose husband has died. For a man the term is widower. And common-law means that a couple is living together, like they are married, but are not actually married. In the province of Quebec where we are podcasting from, we have the lowest rate of marriage anywhere in the world, so we have a lot of couples who are living as common-law.

Maura: As I was saying, women have many different kinds of statuses. Therefore, we need Ms. M-S. Ms. can be used for divorced and separated women. It can be used for married women and single women too! It suits every woman. This is especially helpful, like our friend asked, when you don’t know whether the woman is married or not. With Ms. you can’t go wrong!

Harp: It is also important to note, even though Ms. is getting more and more popular, you will still hear Miss and Mrs. being used. Married women are still generally referred to with Mrs. but it is completely fine to use Ms. if you don’t know. And some people still use Miss. This either refers to a very young girl, or is being used by someone who is older, or just hasn’t figured out that Ms. is being used more and more.

Maura: One last note of warning: be careful with your pronunciation. Ms. and Miss can easily be confused because they both have s’s at the end. M-I-S-S has the soft s and M-S sounds like a z – Ms.

english PodcastAudio/Learning Materials: Culips