Can we use any other titles or honorifics other than Mr, Ms or Mrs before a person's name if we don't want to express their gender?


Sometimes a role or qualification has an honorific:

Representative Smith

Reverend Jones

Professor Karthik

Dr Zhang

Officer Armstrong

Captain McDonald

Mx and Misc are documented as possible gender neutral titles, but I cannot recall them being used in any document I've seen.

Often you may either use the full name of the person or just the family name.

In our recent correspondence Anna Gable ...

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    Much as it might be helpful, there are no gender-neutral honorifics in common use. Feel free to use these if you wish, but they are likely only to cause confusion, and possible unintended debate. – Andrew Mar 2 '18 at 17:21
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    I am a native speaker, and I have never heard of "Mx and Misc" as titles. I would not recommend using them unless they catch on more in the future. – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Mar 2 '18 at 21:45
  • @BlueRaja-DannyPflughoeft "Mx." is used by the New York Times, for instance in nytimes.com/2018/02/24/style/… – Mark S. Mar 3 '18 at 1:29
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    @MarkS. Philip B. Corbett, a Times editor who oversees the newspaper’s style manual and usage rules, called that appearance of Mx. in The Times an exception. “I don’t think we’re likely to adopt Mx. in the near future,” he said. “It remains too unfamiliar to most people, and it’s not clear when or if it will emerge as a widely adopted term.” source – Andrew Mar 3 '18 at 3:47
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    @Andrew, that comment was from years before the article I linked, though it may still apply. That said, it seems that Mx. is all but exclusively used for those who identify outside of the gender binary, which would not really make it gender neutral for the case when "we don't want to express their gender". – Mark S. Mar 3 '18 at 3:53

There are no commonly-used gender-neutral honorifics in English at the current time. Many have been suggested, but none have been sufficiently adopted that the average speaker will recognize them. Using these will, at best, only cause confusion.

If the person has a military rank, you may use that (e.g. General Powell). Other jobs have similar honorifics like Captain (of a marine vessel or aircraft), Judge, Doctor (either medical or academic), Senator, President, Minister, Bishop, etc.

Otherwise the convention is to use the person's full name. Of course, some names are themselves gender-neutral -- Morgan, Jamie, Cory, etc. -- but then it's up to the reader to decide if the gender is important.

[Edit] Related article: Me, Myself, and Mx. (from 2015) which suggests that the honorific Mx. may be more common in the UK than the US. It's certainly not common in the US, although language is fluid so who knows? However, if you are writing to a group of people familiar with gender-neutral pronouns then it's only polite to adopt their language.

Otherwise, again, it's unlikely the average person will understand what you are trying to say. Also, many have strong feelings about the entire issue of gender, so unless you intend to incite a debate, it's best to avoid using these honorifics as they may distract from what you are trying to say.

  • It may be worth noting that the use of non-traditional gender pronouns and related terms is a hotly debated political issue at the moment. Depending on the views of the readers, using or not using them may be kicking a hornet's nest. – jpmc26 Mar 3 '18 at 16:11
  • @jpmc26 Yes, I did think about this but at first didn't want to go too deeply into the particulars. I've edited my answer, but if OP is interested we can talk about it more. – Andrew Mar 3 '18 at 16:37

As others have noted, there are no commonly-accepted gender-neutral honorifics in English. I do, however, remember reading a science fiction novel where all important persons, or persons in formal situations, were referred to as "M. LastName," a gender-neutral version of Mr., Mrs., and Ms., similar to Mx. and pronounced simply as "em."

  • A single letter is confusing, because it can also be an initial. We need a minimum of two letters. – Mr Lister Mar 2 '18 at 21:24
  • This may be confusing for an international audience, particularly French speakers! M., Mme., and Mlle. are the French honorifics for Mr., Mrs., and Ms., respectively. – MMAdams Mar 2 '18 at 22:17
  • @MMAdams: But if it's written in English... – Lightness Races in Orbit Mar 3 '18 at 0:29

Use the term "Citizen", "Comrade", or, somewhat more old-school, "Goody".

For example, "We should all thank Comrade Smith for keeping us informed," or "Goody Smith doth preparest the most fine head cheese in yon village, verily."

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    "Goody" is short for "Goodwife" and is not gender neutral. --- But +1 for "Comrade". – Adam Michael Wood Mar 2 '18 at 21:06
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    Addressing people as "Comrade" makes you sound like a card-carrying Communist from the old USSR. Addressing people as "Citizen" makes you sound like someone from a dystopian science-fiction novel. Both are doable, but be prepared for some odd looks. – Andrew Mar 2 '18 at 22:36
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    I'm glad Adam and Andrew left the usage notes that should have been included in this answer. (Remember, this community is geared toward helping learners, who deserve to know the nuances and subtleties of suggested words before they start using them in day-to-day speech.) – J.R. Mar 3 '18 at 10:54

While the other answers pretty much covered it, since this is ELL, an important aspect of practical usage is that non-professional titles/honorifics are on the way out. There are still plenty of places where you'll find they're requested (official forms, online account creation forms, etc.), sometimes as a thinly-veiled proxy for asking gender, and still plenty of lines of work where you're expected to be able to use them with clients/customers/partners/etc., but younger generation native speakers largely do not use them, and find their use weird and awkward.

For a non-native speaker trying to navigate an English-speaking environment, I think the most important piece of advice about using these honorifics/titles is: don't. Unless you're in a situation where social protocols call for it and you're not comfortable bending them.

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