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Please keep in mind that these are included as guidelines and your individual situation may call for other formats.


Addressing Couples with Different Last Names:

This includes couples living together, gay or lesbian couples, and wives who have kept their maiden names. These names are presented on separate lines and can be typed in one of two ways; alphabetically or the woman's name first.

Example (married):

Ms. Elizabeth Smith
and Mr. Justin Williams
123 Eastwood Road
Charleston, South Carolina  29407


Example (unmarried):

Ms. Elizabeth Smith
Mr. Justin Williams
123 Eastwood Road
Charleston, South Carolina  29407

Addressing a Widow:

A widow's invitation should be addressed to "Mrs. Alan Johnson," not "Mrs. Eileen Johnson." Here is why: "Mrs." refers to the "Mistress/Wife of" a male. The title "Mrs." should always come in front of a man's name. A woman cannot be her own wife (as in Mistress/Wife of Eileen); she is the Mistress/Wife of James, a title she keeps forever, unless she remarries.

Here is an exception to this rule that originated decades ago and makes little sense: The only time the title "Mrs." may be used in front of a woman's first name (as in Mrs. Mary Jones) is when she is divorced. I have found that most divorced women, however, prefer the title "Ms."

Keep in mind that a younger widow's invitation may be addressed to "Ms. Eileen Johnson," but an invitation sent to your 90 year old widowed great aunt should probably read "Mrs. James Johnson."

Using "Ms." vs. "Mrs.":

If a woman on your guest list is married but kept her maiden name she should never referred to as a "Mrs." - i.e., her line on the outer envelopes would not read "Mrs. Carol Harris" (remember, she is not Mistress/Wife of herself - see "Addressing a Widow" above). Her line on the envelope should read "Ms. Carol Harris."

What about a shower invitation to a married woman who took her husbands name when her husband is not invited? The envelope may be addressed to "Mrs. Brian Smith" or "Ms. Kathryn Smith."

Using "Ms." vs. "Miss":

The title "Ms." is proper for any woman over the age of 21. You don't want to refer to a successful 35 year old unmarried female architect as "Miss Ashley Smith" - she is definitely a "Ms." "Ms." is no longer considered suitable only for the business world; this title is used socially as well.

"Miss" is used for children up to the age of 21 years old.

Using "Mr." vs. "Master":

Master is used for children up to the age of 7 or 8 years old - Above age 8, it is customary to use "Mr." or no title at all until the age of 21.

Addressing the whole family:

"The Smith Family" should not be used unless the names of the family members are not known. "Mr. and Mrs. William Smith" is written on the first line with the children's name(s) listed on the line below. If there is one child, you can address them with a title "Mr. John Smith," with just their first and last name, "John Smith," or with just their first name "and John."

If there are two or more children, they are addressed by their first names only "John and Sally," or "John, Sally and Timothy" in order of age, oldest first.

It is acceptable to use "and Family" on the envelope when the individual children's names are not known or when there are many children to be listed and the line will become too long.

For names that have a Suffix:

Suffixes are all properly preceded by a comma, except Roman numerals "Mr. and Mrs. John Smith III." Junior and Senior can be spelled out "junior or senior" - not capitalized or abbreviated "Jr. or Sr." - capitalized. Examples: "Mr. John Smith, Jr." or "Mr. John Smith, junior."

Inviting a guest with an escort:

If an invitation to a single guest extends to an unknown escort, address the envelope with your friend's name followed by "and guest" (guest should not be capitalized, it is not a proper noun). If you know the name of the person's guest, it is much nicer to use their name; guests will feel more welcome when they see their own name in print.

Abbreviations:

Titles such as Doctor, Reverend, Captain, etc. are not abbreviated unless lack of space necessitates it. Non professional titles such as Mister and Misses should be abbreviated "Mr." and "Mrs." Initials or nicknames should not be used; it is always nicer to use full names. The word "and" should be spelled out instead of using an ampersand. Write out state names as well as the words "Street," Boulevard," "Avenue," "Trail," etc.

House Numbers:

House numbers can be written in three different ways:

  • 1-99 spelled out - "Twenty-five"
  • All numbers numerical - "25"
  • All non-hyphenated numbers 1-99 spelled out - "Sixteen," "25," "Thirty," etc.


Please feel free to email me any additional etiquette questions via the "Contact" link above.


Good resources while putting your list together:

USPS - Check Zip Codes and Street Name Spellings

http://zip4.usps.com/zip4/welcome.jsp

Emily Post

http://www.EmilyPost.com/everyday/forms_of_address.htm

Crane & Co.

http://www.crane.com/navContent.aspx?NavName=Etiquette_Tips&DeptName=Etiquette_Wedding&Name=WedEt_AddressingEnvelope&ContentPage=AddEnv_MarriedCouples

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