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Dear Kind and Honorable Listener, or is that Mr. Listener, Ms. Listener? It can often be confusing ...

By
Adam Lowe,
August 5, 2007

Page 1 of 2

Dear Kind and Honorable Reader, or is that Mr. Reader, Ms. Reader? It can often be confusing figuring out exactly how to address someone, be it in writing or personal interactions. Is it better to always be more formal, or will that sometimes give the impression of distance and lack of warmth? Especially in the workplace, there is a great deal of movement to less formal interactions. So here are a few tips to help with addressing other people.

How Should You Address People?

If you are introduced to the parents of a friend or spouse, you should address them more formally at first. Use the appropriate title (Mrs., Dr., Mr. or Ms.) and their last name until you are invited to do otherwise. You should do the same when meeting someone who is significantly older than you.

How Should You Address People at Work?

In the workplace, there are two schools of thought. Start by addressing all by their honorific, to demonstrate your formality and how seriously you take the work environment. Or, start with the casual approach of addressing all by their first name, to demonstrate your friendly and collegial attitude.

While there are many enclaves of formality and rigid hierarchy, the reality is that most workplaces are becoming less and less formal in terms of use of titles and honorifics. If you work in an academic setting, it is still generally appropriate to address faculty by their professional titles, and the same holds true for the medical and legal professions. But in many other workplace settings, it is normal to begin addressing colleagues and supervisors by their given names. Of course you should judge the situation and feel comfortable being more formal if you are unsure, but the trend in the U.S. is becoming more casual.

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