Ms. vs. Mrs. vs. Miss | Difference & Pronunciation

Ms. vs. Mrs. vs. Miss Difference & Pronunciation

The words Ms., Mrs., and Miss are all titles used to address women formally (e.g., at the start of an email). Which one you should use depends on the age and marital status of the woman, as well as on her own preference about how she should be addressed.

  • Ms. (pronounced [miz]) is a neutral option that doesn’t indicate any particular marital status. It’s most commonly used for older unmarried women and for women whose marital status you don’t know, but you can use it for any adult woman.
  • Mrs. (pronounced [miss-iz]) is used to address a married woman of any age.
  • Miss (pronounced [miss]) is used to address a young unmarried woman or girl.
Examples: Ms. in a sentence Examples: Mrs. in a sentence Examples: Miss in a sentence
Ms. Nielsen is a talented pianist. I hope she’ll play for us at the party. I’ve known Mr. and Mrs. Jayna for a few years. Excuse me, miss. Is this your backpack?
Have you met Ms. Sofi before? Mrs. Thompson is an entrepreneur; she started her own business last year. I always get too much homework from Miss Jonas.

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Miss vs. Ms.

People sometimes mistake Ms. for an abbreviation of Miss, since other titles are conventionally abbreviated in writing (e.g., Mrs., Mr., Dr.). In fact, they’re two different terms with different pronunciations, and Miss has no abbreviation but is always written in full.

Since both titles can refer to unmarried women, it can be difficult to decide which is the right choice. Always follow the preference of the woman being addressed, but if you’re not sure of her preference, the following general guidelines may help:

  • Miss is the form always used for girls—Ms. is only used for adult women (18 or older).
  • Miss is a common title for unmarried women up to roughly the age of 30.
  • Ms. is generally used for unmarried women past the age of 30. It’s also a safe option for women of any age whom you are unsure how to address.
  • Ms. can also be used (instead of Mrs.) for a married woman. Miss cannot be used in this way.

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How to use Ms.

Ms. is a title invented in the 20th century to refer to a woman whose marital status is unknown to the speaker. It was embraced by the feminist movement as a way of referring to a woman without defining her by her marital status (equivalent to the masculine “Mr.”). As such, it’s often used even when the woman is known to be married.

Ms. is written with a period because it’s based on Mrs., but unlike that word, it’s not actually an abbreviation of anything. When you say it out loud, pronounce it [miz] (not [miss]); but you should never write it as “Miz.” Ms. is always capitalized. The plural is Mss. (pronounced [miz-iz]).

Examples: Ms.
She’s married, but she prefers to be addressed as Ms. Laurie in a professional context.

I’d like to introduce you to Mss. Andrej and Elenora.

Dear Ms. Adeline, …

Note
Ms. is neutral in terms of marital status: it doesn’t specify whether the woman is married or not. But it is not gender-neutral: it can only refer to women. If you’re looking for a gender-neutral title, Mx. can be used instead.

How to use Mrs.

Mrs. is a title used for a married woman. The more neutral title Ms. can be used instead for a woman whose marital status is unknown or irrelevant or who expresses a preference for this mode of address.

Mrs. is written with a period because it originated as an abbreviation of “mistress.” However, it’s now pronounced [miss-iz] and only written in this abbreviated form. It’s always capitalized. The plural is Mmes., short for the French “Mesdames.”

Examples: Mrs.
Mrs. Hull says I would make a good mathematician.

I’d like to thank Mrs. Pavel for all her support during the renovations.

Dear Mmes. Smith and Amit, …

How to use Miss

Miss is a title used for an unmarried woman. It’s used mainly for young women and girls (roughly up to the age of 30); it can also be used for older unmarried women, but Ms. is more common in that context. Many young women also prefer Ms., so it can be safest to simply refer to any adult woman with Ms. instead.

Unlike other titles, Miss is written in full and cannot be abbreviated. It’s pronounced as it’s spelled: [miss]. It’s capitalized when it’s followed by a name, but it’s also used without a specific name, in which case it’s lowercase. The plural is Misses.

Examples: Miss
Miss Justina will show you to your office and explain the basics.

May I ask you a question, miss?

Misses Claudia and Jayendra arrived together.

Dear Miss Marijke, …

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What does Mx. mean?

Mx. is a gender-neutral title invented more recently as a way of referring to someone without specifying their gender. Like the singular “they,” it’s used to refer to someone who doesn’t identify as either male or female, or to someone who simply doesn’t want to be identified by their gender.

Mx. is primarily used in writing; when said aloud, it can be pronounced [mux] or [mix]. It’s always capitalized. Like Ms., it’s not an abbreviation of anything in particular; it’s just formed to look like other titles of the same kind.

Examples: Mx.
Mx. Lochan would like to speak next.

Dear Mx. Johnson, …

Punctuation with Ms., Mrs., Miss, and Mx.

Most common titles used before people’s names are written in abbreviated form. The way to write these abbreviations varies between US and UK English.

  • In US English, abbreviation is indicated with a period at the end: Mrs., Ms., Mx.
  • In UK English, no period is used with such abbreviations (e.g., “Dr Philips,” “Ms Jamison”). If you’re writing in UK English, write Mrs, Ms, and Mx with no period after them.

Miss is not an abbreviation; it’s always written out in full. Because of this, it has no period in either version of English.

Example: Titles in US and UK English
From left to right, you can see Mrs./Mrs McLachlan, Miss Becka, Ms./Ms Catrine, and Mx./Mx Gopal.

Other interesting language articles

If you want to know more about commonly confused words, definitions, and differences between US and UK spellings, make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations, examples, and quizzes.

Frequently asked questions

What’s the difference between “Miss” and “Ms.”?

Miss is a title for an unmarried woman or girl, especially one under the age of about 30 (e.g., “Miss Jones”). It cannot be used for a married woman. It is sometimes seen as slightly old-fashioned, since it defines the woman by her marital status.

Ms. is a title for a woman whose marital status is unknown, for an older unmarried woman, or for any woman in a context where you don’t want to emphasize the woman’s marital status. It’s intended to be neutral, in that it can be used for married and unmarried women alike—much like “Mr.” can be used for married and unmarried men.

What does “Mx.” stand for?

Mx. is a gender-neutral title used in the same way as gendered titles like “Miss” and “Mr.” Like the singular “they,” it’s used for people who identify as neither male nor female, or people who simply don’t want to be identified based on their gender.

It’s written like an abbreviation, but it doesn’t stand for any longer word; it’s just designed to look like other titles used before names, with the x used much like it is in statistics, to stand for an unspecified value (the person’s gender).

What does “Ms.” stand for?

Ms. is a title used before a woman’s name, much like “Miss” and “Mrs.” Unlike those terms, it doesn’t specify whether the woman is married or unmarried. It’s used as an equivalent to the masculine “Mr.” to refer to a woman without defining her by her marital status (e.g. “Ms. Gadd”).

It’s written like an abbreviation, but it doesn’t stand for any longer word; it’s just designed to look like other titles used before names. It does not stand for “Miss.” When said aloud, it’s pronounced [miz], but it should not be written that way.

What does “Mrs.” mean?

Mrs. is a title used before a married woman’s name (e.g., “Mrs. Carlton”). It shouldn’t be used for an unmarried woman, regardless of her age.

It originated as an abbreviation of “Mistress,” but it’s now pronounced [miss-iz] and should be written in its abbreviated form, not as “Mistress.”

What does “Miss” mean?

Miss is a title used before a girl’s or an unmarried woman’s name (e.g., “Miss Saint”). It shouldn’t be used for a married woman. For older unmarried women, “Ms.” (pronounced [miz]) is often used instead, since “Miss” normally has a connotation of youth.

Unlike other similar titles, “Miss” cannot be abbreviated but is written out in full.

The word “miss” (not capitalized) can also be used as a verb or noun with various meanings related to a failure to hit something or to feeling the absence of someone or something. These meanings are unrelated to its use as a title.

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Jack Caulfield

Jack is a Brit based in Amsterdam, with an MA in comparative literature. He writes for Scribbr about his specialist topics: grammar, linguistics, citations, and plagiarism. In his spare time, he reads a lot of books.