Widow Etiquette: Mrs. or Ms.?

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Knowing the right etiquette for titles is in order when writing invitations, mailing correspondence or directly addressing a person. Addressing a widow can be a particularly tricky subject because you don't want to offend someone by using the wrong title.

1 Just Ask

The best way to find out how the widow prefers to be addressed is by asking. This of course should be done respectfully and with proper timing. It may not be best to ask right away if she has recently become a widow.

2 Use "Mrs."

"Mrs. Jane Doe" is the traditional and preferred method for addressing a widow, unless the widow prefers another title. In that case, use what she prefers.

3 "Ms." is an Alternative

"Ms. Jane Doe" can also be used to address a widow. "Ms." can be used when you are unsure of a woman's marital status.

4 With Widower’s Name

It is also acceptable to use phrasing with the deceased husband’s name included in the title, such as "Mrs. John Doe." This form can be used to show respect for the woman and her late husband, as well as to continue the formal address she used before she became a widow.