Address Arrangement: Whose name goes first?

Q: When addressing envelopes informally, I have always been taught that the woman’s name should appear first, and that one should never ‘separate a man’s name from his last name’. For example, Mr. and Mrs. Don Smith would read Patty and Don Smith, not Don and Patty Smith. Someone has recently tried to correct me. I was wondering what is proper.

A: It is important to remember that it is the woman’s last name, too, so the rule of not separating first from last names has no bearing. It makes no difference whose name is first. Often it is simply a matter of what you are used to saying!


  1. K.

    I have recently received a lovely letter in the mail from my husband’s direct report, but I’m not quite sure the action, or absence of, that I am now to take. I have never met this boss, but she wrote me thanking me for supporting my husband through long work hours and describing what an asset he is to the company and praising his work ethic. Neither my husband nor I are not sure if he is the only one to receive this sort of acknowledgement or if she wrote to many employee spouses.

    I know it is redundant to write a thank you for a thank you, and I honestly can’t think of what one would even say as I have never met this woman. But, it also feels oddly unappreciative of the kind gesture to say nothing at all. Any advise?

    • Elizabeth

      It would have been nice if her thank you also included an invitation to a thank-you dinner or cocktail party – then you could have met her and said ‘your welcome’ in person. But it didn’t, so the note you should write back is not a ‘thank you note’ but rather a ‘you’re welcome, it was my pleasure’ note. It can be brief, and in it you can thank her for her recognition of your husband’s skills/strengths. It can be some variation of this:
      “Dear. Ms. Bosslady,
      I received your gracious letter last week, and wanted to respond to thank you for recognizing George’s efforts (or whatever your husband’s name is). It was my pleasure to support him through the recent merger (or whatever the project way), and I am warmed by your appreciation. Hopefully one day we will have occasion to meet!

      If you really want to go above and beyond, you and Mr. K could invite the boss and her spouse over for dinner. Your response could be an invitation.

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