Does “Mr” Take a Period?

By Maeve Maddox

A recent DWT post about hyphen use (Chocolate covered or Chocolate-covered) prompted a discussion about the use of a period with the titles Mr. and Mrs. Here are some of the comments:

i was taught not to type a full stop after Mr and Mrs, but a few decades earlier that would have been incorrect.

[Responding to i was taught not to type a full stop after Mr and Mrs]

I was probably taught Mr. etc at school – can’t remember – but learning to type we were told not to use the full stop.

I’ve no way of knowing the location of these readers. Their experiences may be related to where they went to school.

Whether or not to place a period after Mr. and Mrs. depends upon whether you are following American or British usage.

In my American education I was taught to place a period after these abbreviations:

The rule is to place a period after each abbreviation…
Abbreviations of the following titles…are proper in any writing: Mr., Mrs., Messrs., Dr. –Walsh Handbook

In those bad old days, Miss was commonly used to address unmarried women. Although the title (like Mrs.) is a shortened form of “mistress,” no period was felt to be necessary: Dear Miss Jones…

According to British usage, if the abbreviation ends with the same letter as the word entire, no period is necessary:

Mr (Mister)
Mrs (Mistress)
Dr (Doctor)

If the abbreviation ends with a letter other than the one that ends the whole word, a period is called for:

Prof. (Professor)
Capt. (Captain)

French usage is similar:
Mlle (Mademoiselle)
Mme (Madame)
M. (Monsieur)

The invented title Ms. has widely displaced Miss on both sides of the Atlantic. Ms conflates Miss and Mrs to provide a feminine form that, like Mr, does not indicate marital status.

British usage: Ms Jones
American usage: Ms. Jones

Although British usage makes more sense to me, I am careful to write the periods after Mr, Mrs, Ms and Dr on American correspondence.

40 Responses to “Does “Mr” Take a Period?”

  • Dave

    Abbreviations take a full stop to show the word has been cut off. Contractions e.g. Mister / Mr don’t take a full stop because the word isn’t cut off at the end.

  • Dale A. Wood

    HRM (no periods) means His (Her) Royal Majesty.
    I am quite happy that we don’t have need for that one in America.
    Titles of nobility are unconstitutional here.

    I don’t mind the addressing of foreign monarchs as “Your majesty”, and in fact, it sounds very polite. Otherwise, “Sir” or “Ma’am” sound good to me.

    When addressing judges in the United States, either “Your honor” or “Judge” are all right. This might be true in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, too. However, I would like a little more, such as “Judge Adams”, “Judge Marshall”, or “Judge Washington”.
    In this decade, all lower-court judges in Australia have abandoned the wearing of white wigs. Now, those are only for appeals court and Supreme Court justices. As far as I am concerned, they ALL ought to flush their wigs, except for bald-headed women!

  • Dale A. Wood

    If you don’t like “etc.” with the period, you can always write “et cetera”, and italicize it because it is a foreign phrase.
    Likewise “en masse” is a foreign phrase from French, and “modus operandi” and “corpus delecti” come from Latin. All of these should be italicized.
    The Associate Press does not like this because computer type-setting machines are often stupid, and they mess up on the font and spelling.

  • Dale A. Wood

    In American English, a period always comes after an abbreviation, but not for an acronym (e.g. NATO and DOJ – Department of Justice).

    Some common abbreviations have more than one meaning, so the meaning is taken from the context. For example:
    St. = street or state
    Sr. = senior, senor (Spanish), or sister (Roman Catholic)
    P.M. = prime minister or post meridian (also p.m.)
    G.P. = general practitioner or “general purpose”
    Fr. = father, friar, or France
    hr = hour, but HR = honorable or House of Representatives
    (Note that houses of representatives are possessed by the U.S.A., Canada, Australia, and many American or Australian states, or Canadian provinces. The is nothing American-centric about this.)
    “sec” is an exception with no period. It abbreviates “second” in engineering, physics, mathematics, and navigation, but “s” is not a valid abbreviation for second. We use “s” for something else, specifically “the Laplace Transform variable”.

    I like the abbreviations from Spanish, “Sra.” and “Dra.” Sra. means “senora” or “senorita”, and Dra. is for a woman with a doctoral degree, especially an M.D., a dentist, or an optometrist.

    In German, there is no need to abbreviate “Herr” (for men) or “Frau” (for women), because the words are so short. “Frau” used to mean a married woman, but in Europe, “Fraulein” has fallen into disfavor and most single women prefer to be called “Frau”, anyway. “Fraulein” is still O.K. for the ages of 16 to 18, and for waitresses of any age. I still love “Fraulein Hilda” and “Fraulein Helga” from “Hogan’s Heroes”. They were both secretaries for Kommandant Klink, and they were played by similar-looking actresses. In real life, one of them married Bob Crane (Colonel Hogan), but Mr. and Mrs. Hogan are both now deceased, as are Klink, Sgt. Schultz, Gen. Burchhalter, Sgt. Kincheloe (the Black radio operator and fluent German speaker), and Cpl. Newkirk. I don’t know about Major Hochsteader, who was actually played by an American Jew from Nashville, Tennessee.

    Yes, the U.S. Department of Defense has the standard that the abbreviations of ranks do not have periods, but I was taught in Air Force ROTC that those are often to be written in all capitols. For example, LT = lieutenant, CAPT = captain, MAJ = major, LTC = lieutenant colonel, COL = colonel, BG = brigadier general, MG = major general, LTG = lieutenant general, GEN = general (four stars), ENS = ensign in the Navy or the Coast Guard.
    Likewise, AM = airman, PVT = private, SMN = seaman, CPL = corporal, SGT = sergeant, SSGT = staff sergeant, TSGT = technical sergeant, MSGT = master sergeant, PO = petty officer, WO = warrant officer, CWO = chief warrant officer, SMSGT = senior master sergeant, CMSGT = chief master sergeant, CPO = chief petty officer. LTCDR = lieutenant commander, CDR = commander, ADM = admiral (four stars), FLTADM = fleet admiral (five stars), but there aren’t any more of these, or five-star generals, etc. RADM = rear admiral, and VADM = vice-admiral.
    The rank of commodore is no longer in use in the Navy or the Coast Guard, but it could be brought back in wartime.
    There are doubtless other ranks that I have omitted.
    Also, a military or naval doctor, dentist, optometrist, clinical psychologist, etc., may be addressed by his/her rank (e.g. lieutenant or captain) or simply as “doctor”. They make things easy and comfortable for patients, no matter what their ranks are.

    “Garcon” for French waiters has fallen out of favor because it literally means “boy”, and a lower-class boy at that.
    “Mademoiselle” is still all right for waitresses of any age.

  • Jose Fernandez

    i disagree 100%

  • Sondra Reed

    I’ve been in the admin field since 1984. When I went to admin school, I was taught from the very beginning to use a period after Mr., Mrs., Dr., Ms., etc. It seems funny to see it any other way although I know different cultures have different ways of doing things. American’s use the periods and I feel it can even seem a bit disrespectful if it’s not used and you can also be viewed as not knowing how to use proper grammar because that’s what we’re taught and are accustomed to. Also, if a student came to America and had to write a paper and didn’t do it, their grade would reflect it. It’s just correct grammar in America to use the periods.

    And I agree with Dr. John Lampwright. “It makes no sense to me. It looks like a gaping, cruddy eyesore. Abbreviated words ought to have periods. That is the final word.”

  • Dr. John Lampwright

    “Although British usage makes more sense to me…”

    It makes no sense to me. It looks like a gaping, cruddy eyesore. Abbreviated words ought to have periods. That is the final word.

    – Dr. John Lampwright

  • Harvey Lorenzo

    I’m American but I largely favor the British forms Mr, Mrs, Ms, Dr etc … i actually don’t put periods after/on abbreviations since it’s so much quicker. I only put periods when i am doing assignments or other important things. To me, US makes more sense to me than U.S.

  • Andrea Simpson

    Woof! Thanks for clearing that up! I can’t imagine however that the Brit. rule of ‘no period if it ends in the same letter but period if it doesn’t’ is less confusing than the American one of ‘if it is an abbreviation, it gets a period.’ That seems much more straight forward!!

    I loved AravisGirl’s response about the South! Yes we do call people Miss Lavinia or whatever. The usual rule is if they are friends they are “Miss Whatever” if it’s someone you don’t know then use the last name. Happily in the South with our drawl ‘Mrs’ sounds ‘Ms’ so you can get by either way;-).

    Thanks for the explanation.

  • venqax

    RichCowell: By US rules you are correct. Mr., Mrs. are abbreviations that require a period. Miss is a word, so does not. And initials in a name need a period, too. British rules are evidently somewhat differenc.

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