If you have to send an email to someone acquaintance and you only know the first name, would you address him/her as Mr. John or Ms. Jane? The intention is to sound as formal as possible. So, no 'Hello John/Jane'


2 Answers 2


I think this answer will depend very much on exactly what culture you're in; I can only address the United States.

In mainstream US culture, you don't say Mr./Mrs./Ms. Firstname. Titles like Mr. or Mrs. are only used with last names.

If you are trying to be as formal as possible, you don't use someone's first name, so it doesn't matter whether you know it or not. Someone whose last name you don't know can be addressed in mail as Dear Sir or Dear Madam.

Now for a side note:

In some US subcultures, Mr./Mrs./Ms. Firstname is used, but only semi-formally. You would use that form of address for someone you were familiar with and wanted to address respectfully (like someone older), but not a stranger. For example, my wife is from the Deep South of the US, and before we were married, her nephew called me Mr. Firstname, and my wife calls her friend's mother Mrs. Firstname. There are some good discussions of the practice at Southern U.S. use of "Miss FirstName" -- racial or class connotations? and Can “Mr”, “Mrs”, etc. be used with a first name?

In the northeastern US where I grew up, this form of address is not used.

  • It's not used on the (US) west coast either.
    – Stew C
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 22:56
  • That exception is 100% only -- and distinctly -- a culturally Southern usage. In Florida, which is geographically Southern but culturally a mixture of mostly Northeastern US and Cuban influences, I've basically never heard it. There's only one exception: in my high school English class, while reading a book taking place in the South, and with a class discussion of using the title that way being uniquely Southern. Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 20:30

You should only use "Mr" or "Ms" with last names, or with full names. Never use it with the first name alone.

So "Mr Smith", or "Ms Jane Smith" are correct, but "Mr John" or "Ms Jane" are not correct. In British English, there should be no dot after abbreviation "Mr", "Ms" or "Mrs"

You may, occasionally, see "Mr John" in old books. It would have been used by a servant to speak to a child who was senior in rank. But this use is no longer current.

The same applies to most honorific titles: "Dr Smith", "Prof Smith", "Revd Smith" and so on. But with the title "Sir", this should be used with first names. So "Sir John", not "Sir Smith".

In your specific situation, something is very odd. How could you be in a situation in which you need to be highly formal, but know only a person's first name? You have roughly three choices. Either accept that the fact that you know someone's first name means that you are now "on first name terms" and so formality is not expected (and may be felt as being cold and unfriendly). Or find out the person's last name; is there a mutual acquaintance? Or pretend you don't know the person's name at all and begin "Dear Sir,..." But note that this risks being thought to be unfriendly.

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