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.
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