I am writing a letter to my boss and my senior.

 Dear Mr. John and Mrs. Jane,

I feel it's a bit weird because they are not couple/married.

Does it sound normal to write like that?


4 Answers 4


First of all, please note that the usage "Mr. Firstname" or "Miss Firstname", as in your example, are conventional only in specific subcultures of English speakers; I encountered it for the first time when I was working with prison inmates. (I am unaware of any community of English speakers that would utter "Mrs. Firstname".)

Properly speaking, which is to say in formal English, "Mr" and "Ms" (and "Miss" and "Mrs") are all applied to last names, or full names. So "Mr. Smith" is fine. "Mr. John Smith" is fine. "Mr. John" is really weird unless you are in some parts of the American South, and even then, I'm not sure you'd address a letter that way in a business context.

Second of all, part of why it feels weird is that in your example you address a woman as "Mrs." At least in the US, one does not ever address a woman as "Mrs." in a business context unless she has specifically indicated that it's her preferred title (same rules as "Capt." and "Rev.") precisely because it refers to her marital status. The reason it feels weird to address a man and a woman that way when they're not married is that the "Mrs" title is explicitly making a comment about her being married. That is why using "Mrs." is considered gauche in the workplace. Same with "Miss".

The professional default title one uses for a woman is "Ms." and she is addressed "Madam" (parallel to "Mr."/"Sir"). You may find that

Dear Mr. Wu and Ms. Smith

feels a lot less weird.

Should you find yourself needing to use "Mrs." (say, in a social context, like writing wedding invitations), there's a whole archaic set of rules for its correct use, about which I am very hazy. (Something like if Jane Doe marries John Smith, she's Mrs. John Smith but not Mrs. Jane Smith? I remember it was non-obvious and complicated.) Refer to an etiquette manual.

Frankly, the correct rules for deploying "Mrs." were complicated enough, that was what drove the widespread adoption of "Ms." which works just like "Mr."

  • You used all those abbreviations with and without a full stop behind them. That implies that it either doesn't matter or that in some situations you need it, and in others you don't. Can you please be less ambiguous?
    – simbabque
    Commented Jan 6, 2017 at 12:33
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    @simbabque, always, always, always use a period after "Mrs.", "Mr.", and "Ms." Never use a period after "Miss" (when it's used as a prefix; obviously if it's used as a word and ends the sentence that's different).
    – Wildcard
    Commented Jan 6, 2017 at 12:53
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    @Wildcard always, always, always. Unless you're in Britain. In which case, never, never, never. You should never be too certain with English ;)
    – Muzer
    Commented Jan 6, 2017 at 14:20
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    @simbabque It's so much worse than you expect. "Mr." and "Mrs." are abbreviations, so get the dot in use. "Miss" is not an abbreviation, so does not get the dot. "Ms" is not an abbreviation, so originally did not get the dot, but now gets the dot by convention, because English. When referring to any of these, it's not uncommon to leave the dot off (though perhaps it's incorrect), but you always use the dot (if called for) in using it. I probably got it wrong somewhere, because this is actually confusing and hard. Commented Jan 6, 2017 at 21:52
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    @Codeswitcher. However, they are contractions, not truncations, hence no dot in British English. Similary, Lat. has a dot, but Gk does not; see also Dr, Col., Leut., Sgt, etc.
    – TRiG
    Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 22:23

What sounds normal depends on the culture of your boss and your "senior", your company, and other factors. One safe choice in most business situations around the world would be:

Dear John Wu and Jane Smith,


It sounds normal, however usually, the woman's name is used first

Dear Mrs. Jane and Mr. John

(like holding the door open...) at least that's what I was taught.

In the case of emails, I did work at a place where the ordering was:
1) seniority within firm
2) longevity at firm by seniority


It depends on the communications culture in your business. I work for a large multi-national but we have a 'first names' culture. Even when writing to my CEO I use their first name.

When I need to write to more than one person I tend to put the names of the people I am directly communicating with first, then those I am keeping informed.

So, for my circumstances, the letter would simply start

Dear John and Jane

As Codeswitcher explained it would be unusual to include a title with a first name. Avoiding them also means you don't have to worry about the correct form of address.

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