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Ms.

Ms. (pronounced mizz) is a title used with the last name of a woman. Unlike the more traditional titles Miss and Mrs., it does not bear any reference to the woman's marital status, as Mr. does not for a man.

Although it is usually believed to be a creation of modern feminism, Ms. was sporadically used as an abbreviation for "mistress" (just like Mrs.) as early as the 1700s, and the pronunciation mizz for Mrs. was colloquial in the American South and other areas.

Its usage was championed as non-sexist language beginning in the 1970s, especially in business usage, by those who argue that a woman's marital status is of no relevance in such a context. Starting in the 1970s, many women insisted on being called Ms. for political reasons, and a major feminist magazine is named Ms. Magazine[?].

The Times states in its style guide that "Ms is nowadays fully acceptable when a woman wants to be called thus, or when it is not known for certain if she is Mrs or Miss."

The Guardian states in its style guide that: "We use whichever the woman in question prefers: with most women in public life (Ms Booth[?], Mrs May[?], Miss Widdecombe[?]) that preference is well known; if you don't know, try to find out; if that proves impossible, use Ms".

Although some socially conservative women object to the use of Ms., the title is now standard, especially in business -- and where one may not know or find relevant the marital status of the woman so addressed. The title Miss is now considered quite old-fashioned -- except for actresses and entertainers, and sometimes for young girls. The title Mrs. is still in common use, especially by women who have taken their husband's family name.

Several public opponents of "nonsexist language", such as William Safire[?], were convinced that Ms. had earned a place in English by the case of Geraldine A. Ferraro. Ms. Ferraro, a United States vice presidential candidate in 1984, was a married woman who went by her birth surname rather than her husband's (Zaccaro). Safire pointed out that it would be equally incorrect to call her "Miss Ferraro" or Mrs. Ferraro" -- or to confuse the reader by calling her "Mrs. Zaccaro"!

In other languages, nonsexist usage in this regard usually amounts to using the equivalent of Mrs. (madame, señora, Frau) for both married and unmarried women. This makes sense as these titles are usually the direct feminine equivalents of the male titles, whereas the equivalent of Miss is a diminutive.

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