United States: First Name or Title?


Addressing others with respect

The order of most names is first name, middle name, and last name.

When you meet someone for the first time, use a title and his or her last name until you are told to do otherwise. In many cases, Americans will insist on using first names almost immediately; this is a cultural norm that reflects a more casual business style rather than a sign of intimacy.

Use titles such as “Dr.”, “Ms.”, “Miss”, “Mrs.”, or “Mr.”, followed by the last name. If you are not sure of a woman’s marital status, use “Ms.” [pronounced “Miz”]. If a woman dislikes this term, she will usually tell you the courtesy title she prefers.

Outside of the office, Americans tend to be informal and insist on staying on a “first name basis.” Nevertheless, it’s important to understand the office hierarchy, and a visitor should learn the rank and titles of all members of the organization.

Sometimes you will not be told of a person’s last name; in this circumstance, simply use the first name or the nickname. Nicknames may be formal names which have been shortened in unusual ways, [i.e. Dick for Richard]. The use of nicknames is often encouraged, sometimes even by those in positions of considerable authority.

The names of businesspeople reflect America’s diversity. If you meet someone with a name that is difficult to pronounce or otherwise unfamiliar to you, do not be afraid to ask how to pronounce his or her name.

Ensure that your U.S. acquaintances know what you prefer to be called.

The letters “Jr.” after a man’s name [i.e., Arthur Dobson Jr. or Arthur Jr.] signify that he was named after his father.

The Roman numeral III or IV after a man’s name indicates a third or fourth generation scion, with the same name as his predecessors [i.e., Thomas Reed III].

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