Indulge me for a minute or two, as I get a bit polit­i­cal in this post. I debat­ed post­ing on this top­ic, but ulti­mate­ly opt­ed in favour of it giv­en its con­nec­tion to lan­guage and usage.

While many seem to believe that the Eng­lish hon­orif­ic “Ms” was a recent inven­tion of fem­i­nists, its actu­al­ly as old as “Miss” and “Mrs”, all three of which were used as ear­ly as the 17th cen­tu­ry. For some rea­son, how­ev­er, the lat­ter two became more pop­u­lar, and “Ms” fell out of favour until about 100 years ago, when revival efforts began.

Using “Mrs” or “Miss” to intro­duce or address women is prob­lem­at­ic because it cen­tres around the idea that a woman’s iden­ti­ty is tied to her hus­band (or the lack of one). Men, on the oth­er hand, use an hon­orif­ic that has no con­nec­tion what­so­ev­er to their mar­i­tal sta­tus.

By replac­ing both “Mrs” and “Miss” with “Ms”, it affords women the same respect: their iden­ti­ty depends on their own autonomous selves. Plus, it has the added ben­e­fit of not stress­ing out the speak­er while s/he tries to deter­mine covert­ly if the sub­ject is mar­ried.

Some style guides rec­om­mend using “Ms” for women whose mar­i­tal sta­tus is unknown. I, how­ev­er, advo­cate using it for all women, regard­less of whether you know their mar­i­tal sta­tus. Why do we need to know whether a woman is mar­ried any­how?

What are your thoughts on the use of “Ms”? Share them below.

About Kim Siever

I am a copy­writer and copy­ed­i­tor. I blog on writ­ing tips most­ly, but I some­times throw in my thoughts about run­ning a small busi­ness.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter at @hotpepper.

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