The Difference Between Ms vs Mrs vs Miss – Everything You Should Know

married couple wedding exit in a classic car - Ms vs Mrs vs Miss
photo: Heirlume Photography, as seen in this live-streamed Los Angeles backyard wedding

Between Ms vs Mrs vs Miss, which should you use? And what happens when you get married? Which title should you take on? The choice of whether to adopt Ms, Mrs, or Miss can actually be more nuanced (and way more personal!) than a lot of grammar-based sources might have you believe.

And with English-speaking ladies all over the word re-defining what’s in a name, especially after getting married, we thought it important to clear things up.

We’ll break down how each title is traditionally interpreted. But we also took to our GWS Instagram community of 630K followers to see what they thought, too. You might be surprised by the results!

Let’s start with the traditional definitions.

Ms vs Mrs – Do You Become a Mrs After Getting Married?

wedding couple walking through a forested area - the difference between Ms vs Mrs vs Miss
photo: Joshua Mikhaiel, as seen in this roundup on embroidered wedding gowns

So the question is: does a gal become a Mrs after she gets married, or does she stay a Ms? Traditionally, women will become a Mrs upon getting married. On the other hand, Ms is intended to be more ambiguous: it can refer to a married or unmarried woman.

That said, some women opt to not be referred to as Mrs, even after they get married. So while there is a difference between Ms vs Mrs, both can in fact be acceptable prefixes to use for married women!

Not sure whether a woman is married or not? We recommend opting for Ms instead of Mrs, especially since it’s a title used by both married and unmarried women. Ms is oftentimes chosen over Mrs in professional settings, for this exact reason.

Ms vs Miss – Are They Interchangeable?

woman dancing in a white and red floral dress - the difference between Ms vs Mrs vs Miss
photo: Joe + Kathrina, as seen in this backyard micro-wedding with a pasta bar

In the modern day and age, you could certainly argue that Ms and Miss can be used interchangeably, but traditionally speaking there is a difference between the two. So how exactly do you differentiate Ms vs Miss?

Historically, Miss is used to referred to a young (typically under 18 years of age), unmarried woman. With Miss, there is no ambiguity about whether or not a woman is married. When it comes to Ms vs Miss, you can use Miss with confidence when referring to a younger girl who isn’t married yet. Meanwhile, Ms is used by both married and unmarried women.

A Miss traditionally will move up to being a Ms when she gets older. But does Ms mean unmarried too? Nope! Like we mentioned earlier, there are plenty of married women who opt to go by Ms, even if they are married. You may see this trend more commonly with women who opt not to take their partner’s last name. Ms is also commonly used in a setting where someone’s marital status is unknown.

Let’s do a quick recap. Ms vs Mrs vs Miss – which one should you use?

  • Miss – traditionally used for an unmarried women under 18 years of age
  • Ms – used for both married and unmarried women, as a more ambiguous term
  • Mrs – traditionally used for married women, particularly those who have taken their partner’s last name

How Our Readers Define Ms vs Mrs vs Miss

bride standing on a rooftop under a floral arch - Ms vs Mrs vs Miss
photo: Jodan Jankun Photography, as seen in this rooftop skyline wedding inspiration

Okay, now that we’ve gone over the traditional definitions of Ms vs Mrs vs Miss, let’s take it to our GWS readers to get their thoughts. We polled our Instagram community to see what they thought of the difference between Ms vs Mrs vs Miss really was. Specifically, we asked them the following questions, and received some pretty fascinating answers!

If You’re Already Married, Which Did You Prefer Before You Got Married – Ms vs Miss?

54% of our audience chose Ms vs Miss, which means that nowadays Miss is used for more than just young, unmarried women under 18. With a whole 46% of ladies preferring Miss, it’s absolutely an option for women who are single, regardless of age.

After Getting Married, Did You Switch to Mrs? Or Did You Stick With Ms or Miss?

When we asked our audience whether they preferred Ms vs Mrs vs Miss after getting married, 69% of participants said they opted to switch to Mrs, while 31% of participants chose to stick with either Ms or Miss.

All of this to say, just because you get married, doesn’t mean you have to switch to Mrs. Many women choose note to!

If You Didn’t Change Your Last Name After Getting Married, Which Do You Prefer – Ms vs Mrs?

So that begs the question, does changing your last name impact your decision on Ms vs Mrs vs Miss for your new title? Well, 58% of women chose to go with Mrs anyway, even if they didn’t change their name. While 42% of ladies felt Ms was more their vibe.

If You’ve Gotten Divorced, Did You Switch to Ms or Miss, Or Did You Stick with Mrs?

Divorce can certainly change things…both last names and titles. So what did our readers say when it comes to Ms vs Mrs vs Miss after getting divorced?

This one was a bit more cut and dry for our audience, with only 16% of women sticking with Mrs. A whopping 84% of divorced ladies felt that Ms or Miss felt better to them.

Lastly, We Asked An Open-Ended Question:

How Do You Define the Difference Between Ms vs Mrs vs Miss?

Mrs sitting in a window seat in a pink dress
photo: Jodie dc Mitchell, as seen in this Valentine’s Day elopement

With something as personal as a title, we thought it best to see what our audience REALLY thought about these choices. And we have to say, we LOVED the responses we received! We can’t possibly share them all, but there were a few common threads we want to shout out!

For those who hate being called “ma’am”, you’re going to love this response:

“Doesn’t matter to me. But anything is better than ma’am.”

Some ladies loved the way Miss implies youth:

“I just like Miss because it makes me feel young.” We feel ya, lady!

So many ladies agreed that all of these terms were outdated and that women shouldn’t have to be defined by titles, when men only have one: Mr. These were a few of our favorite responses on the Ms vs Mrs vs Miss debate:

“To me it doesn’t matter and is outdated. I don’t use any of them, and won’t when I’m married.”

“I don’t like to be labeled by my marriage status, which is why I prefer Ms.”

“Sticking with Dr.” Heck yes! Love this one!

“There is no title to differentiate marital status for men. We should all stop using them.” Very valid point. Why is it that men only have one title option, regardless of marriage status?

“Getting married should not change how you are addressed or perceived in the world.”

“Everyone should be referred to as Ms. We should avoid ageism and marital status prejudices.”

And this one really got us thinking: “I was all for Mrs, and then I saw it written as Mr’s and it made me uncomfortable.” Interesting! Does Mrs imply that the woman is “belonging to” the Mr? Seems like a lot of our audience seems to think it does!

There were a couple common trends we noticed with our audience. The first being that between Ms vs Mrs vs Miss, many women saw Ms as a way to say their marital status wasn’t anyone else’s business. The second was that the whole concept of titles based on marital status is actually outdated.

Our best advice? When referring to someone else, if you’re unsure of their preferred title of Ms vs Mrs vs Miss, it’s always a nice gesture to ask! Some married women who haven’t changed their last names did so with the intention of not wanting to be referred to as Mrs. And some women just prefer Ms for its ambiguity. When in doubt, asking is never a bad idea.

We’re Curious to Know: What Are Your Thoughts? And Which Do You Prefer: Ms vs Mrs vs Miss?

Share with us in the comments below! Did you change your title after getting married? Do you prefer the ambiguity of Ms when compared to Mrs or Miss? We want to hear your thoughts