“Esquire”: Proper designations in correspondence

by epi on November 20, 2012

Q: When writing to someone who claims the title “Esquire,” I was taught to leave off the designations Mr., Mrs., or Ms. Also, what is the proper usage of Esquire when sending an invitation to a couple?

A: “Esquire” is a professional designation in the legal arena, not a social designation.  When you correspond with a lawyer, you have two choices: Write the person using a normal salutation (“Mr. Robert Jones” or “Ms. Cynthia Adams”) or put “Esquire” after the name, using the abbreviated form (“Robert Jones, Esq.” or “Cynthia Adams, Esq.”).  You would never use both the courtesy title of Mr. or Ms. and the professional designation of Esquire.  Finally, when writing to a lawyer and his or her spouse, never use “Esq.”  Instead, address the couple as “Mr. and Mrs. Robert Jones.”

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

S. W. November 20, 2012 at 12:35 pm

You are correct in your usage, not in your definition. “Esquire” has a vague connection with the legal profession in the United States, but it is not a professional title.

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Kate November 20, 2012 at 1:28 pm

I’m sorry, but I think it is inappropriate for anyone to address a letter as “Mr. and Mrs. Robert Jones”. As a woman, I find it offensive that I would be referred to as Mrs. Husband’s Name. I think your advice is outdated. It should be: “Mr. and Mrs. Robert and Jane Jones”.

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Elizabeth November 20, 2012 at 1:56 pm

I understand your sentiments, but unfortunately this is still an accepted form of address. The best way to avoid it, I think, is to not take husband’s last name, and go by Ms.

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Kate November 20, 2012 at 4:00 pm

The purpose of etiquette is to first and foremost make people as comfortable as possible. If there is a chance of making someone feel uncomfortable by addressing them as Mrs. Husband’s Name, even when it’s perfectly avoidable, to me, is not good etiquette.

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Winifred Rosenburg November 20, 2012 at 4:41 pm

You are right that the personal preferences of the person to whom you are writing should be honored when you are aware of them. However, it is never correct to use “Mrs.” with a woman’s first name. If a woman would not like to be addressed as “Mrs. Robert Jones” the alternative is “Ms. Jane Jones” or with her husband “Mr. Robert Jones and Ms. Jane Jones” or “Ms. Jane Jones and Mr. Robert Jones.”

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