Q. I’m over 40 and was brought up that you always address people whom you don’t know or acquaintances who are older than you as “Mr./Ms./Mrs. Last Name”.
I work with a guy with whom I’ve become good friends over the last 5 years, but whose wife I’ve never met. The couple is 12 years older than I. Two years ago, I sent them a Christmas card. On the card itself I addressed it to “Pete and Mrs. Last Name”. I truly thought this was appropriate because I’ve never met her. Immediately upon receipt I was told that his wife was furious because I called her “Mrs. Last Name” and that I should have used her first name. Was I mistaken?
Also, I have a business acquaintance with whom I’ve become very friendly. He’s slightly older than I, but I always call him “Mr. Last Name.” He’s never corrected me. So, respecting that, I continue to call him “Mr.” Again, I’ve been told this is not the correct etiquette.
A. L., East Windsor, NJ
A. The key when addressing couples is to maintain consistency between the names. In this case, you really should have used her first name, but her being furious because you called her “Mrs. Last Name” was an over-reaction on her part.
Regarding the business acquaintance who is slightly older than you are, you’re correct to use “Mr. Last Name”. It’s a mark of respect, even if he’s a co-worker and not someone to whom you report. Until he asks you to call him by his first name, you are equally correct to continue to address him as “Mr. Last Name”.
Q. What is the correct way of addressing an envelope when sending to Mrs. & Mrs. (for example, two Misters are Messrs)?
C. S., Leicestershire, England
A. “Messrs” is used to address two brothers who live or work at the same address. If I interpret your question correctly, you wish to address two widows or two married women living at the same address. As it’s unlikely they’re married to the same person, address them separately using two lines:
Mrs. John P. Smith
Mrs. Peter L. Smith