Modes of Address, Vol. 9, Issue 6

Dear Etiquetteer: As a person who takes minutes for our Board of Directors meetings, I noticed that when I was absent and our lawyer was acting-Secretary he used "Messrs." to begin a list of the members present which included both men and women (the women are married but have not taken their husbands names). "Messrs. John Doe, Jane Smith, Jim First, John Second, John First, Julie Jones, and Fritz Doe were present." Is this correct? If not how would you handle this one in the Corporate Minutes?

Dear Recording:

Perfect Propriety does not include referring to someone by a Gender They Are Not. Etiquetteer suspects that your Pinch-Hitting Lawyer was unaware of the abbreviation of the French plural for ladies, "Mesdames," which is "Mmes." The example you gave would be correctly written "Messrs. John Doe, Jim First, Jim Second, John First, and Fritz Doe, and Mmes. Jane Smith and Julie Jones were present."

Now, before the Militant Feminists and/or the Politically Correct start attacking Etiquetteer about gender distinctions and precedence and whatnot, allow Etiquetteer to explain that gender-specific honorifics are helpful when reading such documents afterward. Gender-neutral names confuse readers. Pat, Robin, Dakota, Andy, Lindsay, Ryan, etc. are frequently used for both genders. Many people are also not familiar with names from other countries.  For instance, is Sanjay a man or a woman? Using gender-specific honorifics in meeting minutes, whether or not individuals use or like them*, is necessary to communicate accurately.

*Etiquetteer, as always, doesn't care if someone doesn't "like" using an honorific. Whether people do or don't "like" a convention of Perfect Propriety is immaterial.