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ETIQUETTE AT WORK

When addressing the first lady, a simple 'Mrs. Obama' is best

By Peter Post
February 22, 2009
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Q. I'm sending correspondence to our first lady, Michelle Obama. What's the proper manner in which I should address our first lady?

Anonymous

A. When meeting the first lady in person, you address her as "Mrs." plus her last name. It would not be appropriate to address her as "Mrs. First Lady," "Mrs. President," or to use her first name. In a letter sent only to her, you can address it either to "Mrs. Barack Obama" or to "Mrs. Michelle Obama." Some people may question the acceptability of writing "Mrs. Michelle Obama." However, in today's world, when writing to a married woman, it's acceptable to use her first name instead of her husband's when addressing her formally with the title "Mrs." The salutation in the letter would be "Dear Mrs. Obama."

Q. When I have finished my conversation with my supervisor in her office, I have trouble leaving. The conversation is finished and all questions answered, but she begins rambling on about things that may or may not pertain to the question. She does this even after I've taken a few steps out of the office door. I feel I must return to acknowledge her, especially since she is my boss. I realize this is a part of her personality, but I do not know how to leave without angering her and appearing rude.

J.H., Berea, Ky.

A. Getting out of conversations can be tricky, especially with a boss. The best approach is to head off further conversation by indicating a need to get back to work as you thank her for meeting with you. As the business conversation draws to a close, thank her and then indicate you'll either get right on what you were talking about or you need to get back to work. "Thank you, Mrs. Johnson. That was really helpful. I'll get right back to work now and try it." Or "Thank you, Mrs. Johnson. That was really helpful. Please excuse me. I have a ton of work to do before the day is over."

E-mail questions about business etiquette to etiquetteatwork@emilypost.com. If your letter appears in this column, you will receive a copy of Peter Post's "The Etiquette Advantage in Business."

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