Courtesy titles today's world


I head the PR department of an eye bank, which is responsible for the recovery and transplantation of donated eye tissues from organ donors. We send follow-up letters to the next-of-kin of these donors telling them about the outcome of the donation, including information about the recipients. 


Several people on our staff have questioned the style and usage of courtesy titles for women in these letters. Currently, the letters are addressed as "Mrs. James Smith" for example.


An argument against is that it is old fashioned and in today's world women hold a different place. This argument holds that we should address all married women whose husband became a donor as "Ms." such as "Ms. Nancy Smith." Others use the same argument but campaign for "Mrs. Nany Smith.


Then there is the argument that these women have recently lost someone they love, someone cloese to them. Keeping the "old fashioned" title is not only proper but also a connection to the one they've lost.


Personally, I don't have a a burning opinion either way but the two camps here are pretty dug in. Anyone have any feedback or opinion in today's world on what is acceptable or correct?

asked Dec 28 '11 at 22:54 Robert Austin New member

1 answer


Hello Robert, 

You're right, this can be a thorny issue. I think the most polite thing to do is to find out how the recipients themselves would like to be addressed and follow that. 


It can be a relatively simple matter of adding a field to a form asking 'preferred name' or to be less clinical, can be included in any interview questions. I'm fortunate enough never to have had to go through the processes, so I don't know how feasible it is for you to collect that information, but I imagin there will be forms at some stage! 


Debrett's has a handy guide for addressing all manner of people. Here's their link to Addressing Widows.

link comment answered Dec 29 '11 at 12:32 Siân Harris Expert

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