Use of courtesy titles and honorifics in professional writing

Use Of Courtesy Titles And Honorifics In Professional Writing

Use of courtesy titles and honorifics in professional writing

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The use of honorifics (Mr, Mrs, Miss, Ms.) and styles (HRH, His Holiness, etc.) differs greatly among publications in both journalism and academia. The differences are based on tradition, practical concerns (such as space), and cultural norms. There is a continuum among publications between using no honorifics at all, using some honorifics but not styles, and using all honorifics, including styles. In certain cases honorifics and styles may be used according to some other pattern, or selectively only for certain persons. Note that this discussion deals only with the use in the English language; others, for example German, are very different.

Titles, honorifics, and styles

Only some titles are honorifics. For example, it is customary to address people holding those positions as Alderman, Chairman, or General Secretary; but these titles are not honorific. Other titles, such as Ma'am, Doctor, or Lord — and sometimes also Ms. or Professor—are both titles and honorifics. As a rough guide, an honorific can often stand alone or be prefixed to another title (such as Mr. Mayor, Mister President, or Your Honor) as terms of address, without an attached surname.

A certain class of honorifics are known as styles. Styles are generally accompanied by a pronoun or article, pertain to holders of royal, religious, or political positions, and contain a descriptive term. The description attached within a style is of an attribute the holder of the style is purported to...
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