Ms. vs. Mrs. – How To Distinguish Both Words

21.12.23 Commonly confused words Time to read: 5min

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In the process of writing an academic paper, mistaking similar words is a common occurrence, since using variations in votaxiulary is advised to avoid repetition and redundancy and promote a creative flow. It is crucial to focus on the correct meanings of the terms to provide an easy understanding and remain credible and professional. The words “Ms.” and “Mrs.” belong to the most commonly confused words and are often misused. Let’s talk about the correct meaning and use of both words.

Definition of “Ms. vs. Mrs.”

Both words serve as an honorific title for a woman to show respect before her surname. Yet, they differ in meaning depending on the marital status of the woman. If you are unsure whether a woman is married or not, or you are aware a woman is not married, you refer to her as “Ms.” On the contrary, you use the honorific title “Mrs.” when there is a clear indication that a woman is married.

Ms.

… is a noun and an honorific title for a woman with an unknown marital status

Mrs.

… is a noun and an honorific title given to a married woman.

The key to differentiating both words is to pay attention to the pronunciation. While “Ms.” is short for “miss” with one syllable, the word “Mrs.” is short for “missus” with two syllables and is pronounced as /ˈmɪsɪz/ sounding like “missiz.”

Using the word “Ms.”

The word “Ms.” is a noun but primarily functions as an honorific title. It does not autumn into any specific grammatical structure, since it is a title that is used before the surname of a woman to pay respect.

“Ms.” as a title

“Ms.” functions as an honorific title for an unmarried woman or for a woman with an unknown marital status. It is a more neutral way to address a woman respectfully.

Examples

  • Ms. Johnson is the new head of marketing at the company.
  • The current president of the university is Ms. Blanchet.
  • Our new colleague in the department is Ms. Wall.

Tip for using “Ms.” correctly

“Ms.” is the neutral way to address a woman, regardless of her marital status. By using this word, you eliminate the chance of making honorific mistakes, since it can apply to married or not married females. If you are uncertain of the correct use, it is always helpful to use synonyms such as “lady,” “madam,” “ma’am,” or “woman”.

Synonyms Examples
Lady Ms. Sara Harvey is an important figure among actors.
Lady Sara Harvey is an important figure among actors.
Madam Ms. Sandra Hans is very well-known among activists.
Madam Sandra Hans is very well-known among activists.
Ma‘am Ms. could you give a more detailed insight into this case, please?
Ma’am could you give a more detailed insight into this case, please?
Woman Lily Gold is the first Ms. to lead the country.
Lily Gold is the first woman to lead the country.

Using the word “Mrs.”

The word “Mrs.” acts as a noun but cannot be categorized into any specific grammatical structure, as it mainly functions as an honorific title, placed before the surname of a married woman to show respect.

“Mrs.” as a title

“Mrs.” serves as an honorific title to address a married woman respectfully.

Examples

  • Mr. Bill and Mrs. Hillary Clinton both served the United States of America.
  • President Obama and his wife Mrs. Obama invested in charitable organizations.
  • It is up to debate whether Mrs. Trump was fit to be the first lady of the United States.

Tip for using “Mrs.” correctly

“Mrs.” refers to a married woman respectfully. To avoid making mistakes, it is advised to make use of the synonyms that point out that a woman is certainly married.

Synonyms Examples
Consort King Charles and Mrs. Camilla are now the leading figures in Britain.
King Charles and Consort Camilla are now the leading figures in Britain.
Dame Mrs. Maggie Smith and her husband are renowned British actors.
Dame Maggie Smith and her husband are renowned British actors.
Lady The head of the department of philosophy is Mrs. Apple, just like her husband.
The head of the department of philosophy is Lady Apple, just like her husband.
Wife The man and his Mrs. were applauded for their speech at the inauguration.
The man and his wife were applauded for their speech at the inauguration.

Test yourself!

Practice sheet

By filling in the blank spaces in the following 10 sentences, you can test your understanding of the distinction between “Ms.” and “Mrs.”. The correct answers are listed in the second tab to cheque your answers.

  1. A married woman can also be addressed as a _ _ _ _ to show respect.
  2. If the marital status of a woman is unknown, you can always address her as _ _ _ _.
  3. To address a woman in a neutral yet respectful way, you use the title _ _ _ _.
  4. Barack Obama and his wife _ _ _ _ Michelle Obama are still active in politics!
  5. _ _ _ _ John is a famous lawyer with a very high success rate.
  6. _ _ _ _ Lee and her husband, Mr. Lee, invested in Bitcoin.
  7. Another word for wife is _ _ _ _.
  8. King Charles is often accompanied by his queen, _ _ _ _ Camilla.
  9. _ _ _ _ Andrea Salt is an important historical figure.
  10. Oprah Winfrey was never married, so it is appropriate to address her as _ _ _ _ Winfrey.
  1. A married woman can also be addressed as a Mrs. to show respect.
  2. If the marital status of a woman is unknown, you can always address her as Ms.
  3. To address a woman in a neutral yet respectful way, you use the title Ms.
  4. Barack Obama and his wife Mrs. Michelle Obama are still active in politics!
  5. Ms. John is a famous lawyer with a very high success rate.
  6. Ms. Lee and her husband Mr. Lee invested in Bitcoin.
  7. Another word for wife is Mrs.
  8. King Charles is often accompanied by his queen, Mrs. Camilla.
  9. Ms. Andrea Salt is an important historical figure.
  10. Oprah Winfrey was never married, so it is appropriate to address her as Ms. Winfrey.
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FAQs

Yes, it is okay to use “Ms.” even if you are married because the title is a neutral way to address any woman regardless of her marital status.

You can use both titles. Even though “Mrs.” refers to a married woman, the title “Ms.” can refer to an unmarried woman or when the marital status is unknown.

The title “Ms.” is the preferred honorific title in a professional setting, as it doesn’t matter whether a woman is married or not.

Both titles are appropriate for a divorced woman, even after a divorce. However, if she decides to use her maiden name, it is safer to use “Ms.”