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Call me Mrs., or Ms, or just plain Dorothy ... : Conversation question • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

Call me Mrs., or Ms, or just plain Dorothy ...

Every month in Writer's Digest's InkWell section, we pose a question related to the writing life. Tell us your thoughts.
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Oldtimer
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Call me Mrs., or Ms, or just plain Dorothy ...

Postby Oldtimer » Thu Jun 02, 2016 2:34 pm

No, you don't have to call me "Madam".

There is one aspect of American reporting that makes me cringe every time I see it, and that is the practice of referring to people by their last names after the initial introduction.

I have a copy of The Writer in front of me, and I am reading an article about Celeste Ng and her first novel, Everything I Never Told You. Here's a small extract from the article:

Ng grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Shaker Heights, Ohio, in a family of scientists. Since childhood, she has been both an avid reader and writer.
"I can't remember a time before I wanted to write," says Ng, who now lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. ...


The next paragraph starts with "Ng", too.

In England, reporters never omit a prefix, unless the subject of the interview is extremely well-known. You might see Mr. Donald Trump referred to as Trump, but rarely a lady. It is just "not done", my dear. It smacks of rudeness. Compare the excerpt above with two paragraphs taken from the June 4, 2012, edition of The Daily Telegraph, reporting on the Queen' Jubilee procession down the Thames:

Gwendoline Carroll, 56, and her daughter Nicola, 33, had travelled from Cork to join the Pageant. "I come to all Royal events - the wedding, the Queen's birthday, even Diana's funeral - but this one tops the lot," said Mrs. Carroll.
Two students, Graham Morris from Brighton and Laura Pritchard from Birmingham, both 19, missed last year's royal wedding because they were revising for exams. "Being here today is like being part of history," said Miss Pritchard.


How did the American practice come into being? Was it to save ink or typesetting? Whatever the reason, it is one Americanism that I just can't get used to.
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Loren Killdeer
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Re: Call me Mrs., or Ms, or just plain Dorothy ...

Postby Loren Killdeer » Thu Jun 02, 2016 3:06 pm

Its strange, but it must be some social factor. Here we never call the other by a surname, and if you REALLY want to be polite to an older person, you can say usted. But its usually names, doesn't matter who it is.

Anyway, how would anyone put the single surname? I agree, it sounds terrible!
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Re: Call me Mrs., or Ms, or just plain Dorothy ...

Postby shadowwalker » Thu Jun 02, 2016 10:42 pm

I guess I'm so used to seeing men referred to by surname only, seeing women getting the same treatment doesn't really bother me - equal treatment and all that. What does bother me is seeing the president (regardless of who) referred to as "Mr Jones" instead of "President Jones". That's what doesn't sound respectful to me. :(
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Re: Call me Mrs., or Ms, or just plain Dorothy ...

Postby cynicalwanderer » Fri Jun 03, 2016 12:54 pm

It is odd. Perhaps it filtered down from the military boot camp practice of depersonalizing soldiers by calling them by their last names only.
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Re: Call me Mrs., or Ms, or just plain Dorothy ...

Postby pls » Sat Jun 04, 2016 9:33 am

I would say the use of the surname only originated with TV sound bites, and newspapers followed. I don't see it as disrespectful at all, at least with well-known personalities. It's a means of saving a little space.
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Re: Call me Mrs., or Ms, or just plain Dorothy ...

Postby lifeontherun » Sun Jun 05, 2016 9:40 am

My sir name, only. was used by my friends, teachers and professors throughout my young years. It was a novelty to them and it was fine with me. The term Ms, creates a lively image of me as a mess, and that I don't care for. I was glad when the talented people began to take on a persona of equality and it was a big improvement in the business world.

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Re: Call me Mrs., or Ms, or just plain Dorothy ...

Postby James A. Ritchie » Sun Jun 12, 2016 12:10 pm

I don't think it's as written in stone as you do. I see many forms of this, depending on the writer. Given the choie, though, I'll take the American way every last time. The English way sounds overwritten and crude, to me.

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Re: Call me Mrs., or Ms, or just plain Dorothy ...

Postby Oldtimer » Sun Jun 12, 2016 3:48 pm

Read samples of my Martian series (by Dorothy Piper) and two romances (by Joni Havel) on Smashwords.
Hard copies of all are on Amazon.

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shadowwalker
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Re: Call me Mrs., or Ms, or just plain Dorothy ...

Postby shadowwalker » Sun Jun 12, 2016 4:39 pm

I think there are lots of cultural things that come across badly for any given group.
"It seems rather like wanting to be ... a writer, rather than wanting to write. It should be a by-product, not a thing in itself. Otherwise, it's just an ego trip." - Roger Zelazny

It's really not that hard. Just tell me a story.

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Carly Berg
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Re: Call me Mrs., or Ms, or just plain Dorothy ...

Postby Carly Berg » Thu Jun 23, 2016 1:10 am

I'm American but I'd have to say I agree with you, Dorothy. I'd consider it rude if someone called me by my last name, unless it was the kind of close pal where you get to call each other the b-word and stuff. :p
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