The Grammarphobia Blog

To dot or not to dot

Q: Can you tell me if Ms (as in Ms Jean Smith) requires a period? I never use one because Ms is not an abbreviation, unlike Mrs. (an abbreviation of Mistress) or Mr. (Mister).

A: Although the courtesy title “Ms.” is not a true abbreviation, style manuals generally recommend using a period. As the Chicago Manual of Style website explains, “Chicago style is to use a period after ‘Ms.’ even though it’s not technically an abbreviation, following Webster’s 11th Collegiate, which suggests that ‘Ms.’ is a shortened form combining ‘Miss’ and ‘Mrs.’ “

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.), which includes the dotless “Ms” as an acceptable, though less common, variation, has an interesting usage note on the history of the term:

“Many of us think of Ms. or Ms as a fairly recent invention of the women’s movement, but in fact the term was first suggested as a convenience to writers of business letters by such publications as the Bulletin of the American Business Writing Association (1951) and The Simplified Letter, issued by the National Office Management Association (1952).”

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