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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Mr. or Mister?

   
Author Topic: Mr. or Mister?
enigmaticuser
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I haven't found a real definitive work on this subject (I really need to invest in a more exhaustive style guide), but suppose you have a character pov, like a respectful child (they do still make those), who refers to adults as "Mr. So-and-so." So when looking over their shoulder they see this person as Mr. Smith. So preferences? Rules?

So outside of dialogue, is it Mister Smith or Mr. Smith? I lean towards the latter. But should it be "Mr Smith" sans punctuation?

What about a Miss. I don't feel leaning towards Ms. Smith over Miss Smith. No rationale.

Further more, as I write I sense the danger of it getting tedious. Sure I change up the way they name them, "Mr." here, descriptor there, what not . . . but, should I maybe only use Mr. the first time in their POV section and then reduce it to just the associated name Smith or John instead of Mr. Smith or Mr. John.

Lastly, would it be confusing if the person eventually grows closer to the other character and drops Mr? I suppose not, but it would make the POV voice less destinctive wouldn't it?

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MAP
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If this is modern time our world. I would use Mr. (with the period because it is an abbreviation) over Mister. I wouldn't worry about it becoming tedious, if that is how the POV character thinks of the character then that is what should be used.

Miss and Ms. are two different things. Miss means the woman is unmarried. Ms. means she could be married or not, sort of ambigious. Mrs. means the woman is married. You should use whichever fits.

If the POV character grows closer and starts thinking differently about the Mr. Smith, dropping the Mr. or having him use the first name is a nice way to show that.

These are all JMO. I don't have a style guide reference, so take it or leave it. [Smile]

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extrinsic
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Mr. is the conventional usage over Mister. Honorific titles usually are abbreviated. Punctuation is optional, traditionally for informal uses. Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel omits the period, for example.

Mr. is an anglo abbreviation of Master, actually, an honorific for a young man or boy, and in many uses a dimunitive term when used for older men. "Mr. Christian" from the several Mutiny on the Bounty movies, for instance. Pronounced mister, though.

Ms. is for when a woman's marital status is uncertain or unknown or unimportant or for socially sensitive decorum. Miss is as MAP said for unmarried women and young women or girls, again, with potentially dimunitive uses.

Creating self-imposed rules based on language usage and style principles is a good or best practice. I.e., use Mr. in dialogue only or in both indirect and direct discourse, speech and thought, and only when used as an honorific or title. No honorific otherwise. Don't spell out mister unless used in a generic connotation.

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babooher
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To add to what has already been written, I think you'd want to use "Mister," when you are are using it by itself.

Example: "Hey, Mister, you dropped your wallet."

Also, Mr is, I believe, Commonwealth English while Mr. is Standard American English.

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Pyre Dynasty
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I've always been a fan of Mssr. which is master. I need to write a story about Mssr. Wm..

Anyways, I don't think there is a rule. I like Mister coming from a child since they may not have yet wrapped their heads around abbreviations.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Miss can also be a kind of honorific. In PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (as reflective of certain English forms of address from that day), the eldest of the Bennet daughters was addressed as "Miss Bennet" and her younger sisters were addressed as "Miss Elizabeth, Miss Mary, Miss Kitty, Miss Lydia." The eldest was the only one who could be addressed by the family name.

In the southern United States, even today, it is a form of respect to address a woman as "Miss Ellie" (as in the matriarch of the family in the tv series DALLAS), even though she was married.

If y'all want to call me "Miss Kathleen," I won't object. [Wink]

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redux
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Emily Post has this to say regarding forms of address in correspondence which I think can be applied to prose:
http://www.emilypost.com/forms-of-address/titles/96-guide-to-addressing-correspondence


On a somewhat related note, I do find it interesting that sometimes forms of address that were once polite, such as Mister or Lady, can now be used to cause offense, i.e. "What's your problem, Mister!" or "Listen, Lady, I don't know who you think you are..." Though my examples might have more to do with tone than usage.

It would be more polite to say "Excuse me, Sir" or "Pardon me, Ma'am." And yet I have seen women bristle at being called 'Ma'am.' I think it might make them feel matronly ergo old.

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Crystal Stevens
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I know Ma'am in my neck-of-the-woods (Great Lakes area) is considered strictly for an older woman. A young woman would take great offense at being called Ma'am around here. I know it felt strange the first time someone called me Ma'am, even though I fit the complement. Now, it doesn't bother me hardly at all.

But the two times I was in Oklahoma City, Ma'am was (and still is) a high form of respect, especially from a man whether he knows you or not. Those considered westerners here in the States do that all the time when being polite to any woman, and I took it as such when I was there.

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enigmaticuser
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Ma'am is also ingrained custom and curtesy in the military.

Good info yall.

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Merlion-Emrys
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In the Southeast ma'am is more or less automatic regardless of age...and as Kathleen says, "Miss", often with the first rather than last name, can be used regardless of marital status and is a near-honorific often for either a matriarch or some well loved and respected individual.

While I think "mister" can be either neutral or slightly coarse, depending on both region and context, now a days "lady" is almost always a little coarse and "Lady" as a positive or honorific is seen as quite archaic and more like something reserved for someone with an actual title.

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KayTi
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Also one point of note about the use of Mrs., from a not-Ms.-but-is-married woman.

Mrs. Hisfirtname Hislastname is the standard customary form of address. Mrs. James Walker is the wife of a Mr. James Walker.

If it's Mrs. Herfirstname Hislastname, it generally indicates divorced or widowed. Mrs. Jane Walker is either divorced from a Mr. Walker and/or Mr. Walker is deceased.

As a young woman, I prickled at the idea that by virtue of just getting MARRIED to the guy I lost my first name as a form of social address (*and* my last name? Would the horrors never end??) so I chose to keep my own name (many many many other reasons, including a well-established professional career even though I was young, and an extensive family history that can be traced back to 1300s England and a knight who fought in the crusades.)

I am properly addressed as Ms. Karen Smith, my first name, my last name. My married status is not obvious from the way I am properly addressed (but it's obvious in person because I wear a wedding ring. My distaste at convention did not stretch toward jewelry...) My darling husband has a different last name. Our children, the little angels, have both (what lucky ducks.) and when our hyphenated children marry other people with hyphenated names, I look forward to finding out how they decide to be known as a family!

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LDWriter2
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First: Your feelings on the subject might be responsible for the sort of, almost Freudian slip "Mrs. Hisfirtname Hislastname" The almost slip is changing the second i to an a.

Second: Even though around for awhile Ms is still fairly new. Some consider it one of the very first moves into political correctness, even before the term was made up, I believe.

Third: I know my wife hates being referred to as Ms. It's Mrs. Thank you all the same.

Fourth: Prickled ???

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by enigmaticuser:
Ma'am is also ingrained custom and curtesy in the military.

Good info yall.

Okay, I need some clarification here.

Does someone in the military respond to a superior officer who is female with "Ma'am, yes, ma'am!" or with "Sir, yes, sir!"?

For some reason, I had been given to understand that it was the latter, so if I have misunderstood, I would appreciate being corrected.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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One thing interesting (to me, at least) about all of these differences and so forth is that they can be used for characterization in stories.

So, please, go ahead and give us more specifics and exceptions, people.

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Merlion-Emrys
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Or does he mean that military people customarily refer to any woman regardless of age as ma'am?
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extrinsic
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Ma'am is one where I've encountered resistance to in the South and other regions. It's a contraction of madam or madame, as in a bordello keeper.

It's all a minefield, thus why of late, though perhaps overly familiar, first names are widely preferred by some. Last names used to be in favor, without honorifics in appropriate contexts.

Hey, Smith, bring that monkey wrench over, will you.

Jake, please bring this monkey wrench to the boss.

Do it yourself, mister. I'm a union man. It's not my job to step and fetch for you.

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KayTi
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I can add an interesting character tidbit on the women I know who have kept their names.

While it can be true that many women who have kept their names have done so for professional purposes, there is a large group of women I know who either kept their names (like me) or adapted their names to some sort of hybrid where their maiden name and married name are used together, either hyphenated or as two last names. These aren't professional women, necessarily, though each has a college education. They are women I know through my work with mothers and babies, and universally all took time off to raise their families.

Isn't that interesting? We are all now of an age where our children are in school and each of us is returning to the workforce in this way or that, always through creative means (because we end up prioritizing our families ahead of most all else, including career goals.) But I've always found it fascinating that the largest group of women I know who have retained their maiden name in one way or another (and who are therefore rightfully known as Ms. Herfirstname Herlastname) are those who have also chosen to do what Madeline Allbright and Sandra Day O'Connor chose to do, "sequencing" - wherein we take time off to raise our families and then go back to work or school somehow, someway.

For me writing is like a dream occupation come true, as soon as I can turn it into an income-generator for me! [Wink]

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redux
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
Ma'am is one where I've encountered resistance to in the South and other regions. It's a contraction of madam or madame, as in a bordello keeper.

It is, however, the correct way to address the Queen of England after the initial 'Your Majesty.'

Regarding the use of ma'am in the military, it is customary to address officers as sir or ma'am and NCOs by their rank.

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enigmaticuser
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KDW: It's as Redux points out, at least I think so. Certain customs and curteousies change from branch to branch, for example Marines (my experience) only salute when undercover (wearing a hat for civilians) while the Army will salute without a cover.

But as far as my experience, female officers are ma'am's vs males are sirs. Certain exceptions exist such as in bootcamp where enlisted personnel are for training purposes called sirs and thus, female drill instructors are ma'ams.

Females do not like to be sir'ed rumor has it.

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Pyre Dynasty
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quote:
Originally posted by redux:
quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
Ma'am is one where I've encountered resistance to in the South and other regions. It's a contraction of madam or madame, as in a bordello keeper.

It is, however, the correct way to address the Queen of England after the initial 'Your Majesty.'

Regarding the use of ma'am in the military, it is customary to address officers as sir or ma'am and NCOs by their rank.

I thought that was Mum, short for mother.
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redux
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The Queen is Ma'am:

http://www.royal.gov.uk/HMTheQueen/GreetingtheQueen/Overview.aspx

In newspapers and casual conversations they often referred to Queen Elizabeth II's mother (who was formally the Queen consort) as the Queen mum. Mum being used as short for Mother (mom being the American English equivalent).

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