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Using Personal Titles: Generic Titles (Women), by Dennis Oliver


Using Personal Titles #1:
Generic (General) Titles for Women


When you are speaking to a stranger or to someone who
has a position of authority, it's important to show respect
during your conversation. One way to do this is through
using personal titles as you speak.

In American English, there are two types of personal
titles: titles used with a name and titles used without
a name. Personal titles are generally used with someone
who is older than you or with someone who has a position
of authority. When you don't know the specific title to
use (that is, the title for someone with a particular job
or position), you can always use generic (general) titles.
Here are the ones most often used for women:


Personal Titles for Women:

1.   Pronounce Ms. as [ m I z ]. It has the same
sound as is.

In general American English speech, Ms. is
used only with surnames (family names).
In some dialects, Ms. is also used with given
("first") names, but this is not "standard practice."

Standard practice:

Say "Ms. Smith," not "Ms. Mary."

Say "Ms. Vargas," not "Ms. Marķa."


In the addresses of formal letters, Ms. can be
used with both a given name and a surname:

Ms. Mary Smith
The ABC Company
2222 Main Street
Somewhere, NY


Ms. can also be used when you are making
formal introductions:

It's my honor to introduce Ms. Judith Williams.

Ladies and gentleman, please welcome
Ms. Amanda Kwai.


Ms. is generally not used without a name:


*Thank you, Ms.

*May I help you, Ms.?

6.   You can use Ms. for both married and
unmarried women, but do not use it for
young girls. (Use "Miss" instead.)


Personal Titles for Women:

1.   Pronounce ma'am as [ m ae m ]. It has the
same sound as am.

Ma'am is often used to respond politely to
something a woman says. Use ma'am without
a name:

Yes, ma'am.

No, ma'am.

I'm not really sure, ma'am.


Ma'am can also be used in place of a name:

May I help you, ma'am?

Excuse me, ma'am. Could you help me?

Could you please repeat that, ma'am?


Do not use "lady" instead of ma'am. It sounds
abrupt and impolite to native speakers of English.

Don't say

*May I help you, lady?

*Excuse me, lady. Could you help me?

*Could you please repeat that, lady?

Instead, say

May I help you, ma'am?

Excuse me, ma'am. Could you help me?

Could you please repeat that, ma'am?

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