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Mr. & Mrs. or not

StarFleet Carl

I can't find a search function on the forum and even though I looked through the 17 pages of topics, I didn't see this (which doesn't mean it wasn't there, just that I didn't see it, in case it is there).

Having gone through all that, my question is simple. I'm reading Student Assistance by Radio Guy. I don't think I've ever seen anyone spell out Mister and Missus every single time before this story, even in dead tree books. (Or again, at least the ones I've read.) I have seen the occasional Mistress and Master used, which are what Mrs. & Mr. really mean, but in actual written dialogue, I think this is the first time I've seen it.

Note this is not to be construed as any type of criticism whatsoever - I'm just curious now which and what everyone uses. And whether you would switch when writing dialogue, where the word would be spelled out, versus author exposition, where you might use the abbreviation.

(I may also have an ulterior motive in asking, something about another story I'm working on ...)

Ernest Bywater

@StarFleet Carl

I was taught to use Mr and Mrs in narrative while using Mister and Missus in dialogue back in the 1960s. However, every style manual for work of the use of formal English in academic and work documents state to use Mr and Mrs at all times, but they never have dialogue in them.

Crumbly Writer

The current trend is that it's fine to use Mr. or Mrs. (for Americans) or Mr and Mrs (for Brit English) in either dialogue or narrative. While it's okay to spell them out, I'd only do it once or twice to establish context, or portray a character as overly formal. These are the exceptions to the 'spell everything out the say it's pronounced' guideline.

However, I doubt this would kill a story for many people. It might be mildly annoying, but it's not like most errors we encounter regularly on the site.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Switch Blayde

@StarFleet Carl

If it precedes the name, it's abbreviated (e.g., Mr.) in both the narrative and dialogue.

If it does not precede the name, as in "Mister, please let me go," then it's spelled out (vs Mr. Smith, please let me go).

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

If it does not precede the name, as in "Mister, please let me go," then it's spelled out (vs Mr. Smith, please let me go).

If someone was threatening to kill me, I don't think I'd be quite so formal. It's best to establish a private report (sp?) with your assailant, even if you don't know their name (and who says "My name is Michael Edward Jones III, and I'm going to murder you in cold blood. Here's my business card so you won't forget my name or address. Oh, and please mention my name on Yelp.")

Replies:   Capt. Zapp
Capt. Zapp

@Crumbly Writer

s "My name is Michael Edward Jones III, and I'm going to murder you in cold blood.


"My name is Indigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

Replies:   StarFleet Carl
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

The current trend is that it's fine to use Mr. or Mrs. (for Americans) or Mr and Mrs (for Brit English) in either dialogue or narrative.


I know we aren't going to agree on how you use Mr and Mrs and Dr, but the reason I write it in full is because I was always taught that when you write dialogue you put into words exactly what they'd say in full words, so what is written is the phonetic sounds for the words said. Thus you get things like;

Fred looked at the cheque for $1,000,000.00, turned to Mary, and said, "It's a cheque for a million dollars."

The proper phonetic way to say Mr is emm ahh so the proper way to read out - Jim said, "Hi Mr Jones." Would be Jim said, "Hi em ahh Jones." While having "Hi Mister Jones." means you get the phonetic sounds exactly right.

It doesn't bother me if you or others write the Internationally recognised English abbreviations like Mr, Mrs, and Dr in narrative and dialogue, with or without full stops, but I use the full word in dialogue and the abbreviations in narrative because it makes it clear what's said and is uniform with all dialogue usages of the words.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

I know we aren't going to agree on how you use Mr and Mrs and Dr, but the reason I write it in full is because I was always taught that when you write dialogue you put into words exactly what they'd say in full words, so what is written is the phonetic sounds for the words said.

I agree with that. However, most Style Guides insist there's an exception to that rule for these types of addresses. Since it seems fairly universally accepted (not by everyone of course), I follow what's recognized by most readers.

By the way, there are other exceptions too. You wouldn't write "seventy-three thousand, nine hundred and eighty-six and seventeen cents". For anything over 99, you generally use the numerical form for simplification.

However, since I and other Indie authors don't follow any specific Style Guides, we tend to go with whichever is most widely adopted instead. If any Australian Style Guides differ, then I defer to that selection as your style of choice. I just find spelling it out repeatedly a bit repetitious.

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

By the way, there are other exceptions too. You wouldn't write "seventy-three thousand, nine hundred and eighty-six and seventeen cents". For anything over 99, you generally use the numerical form for simplification.


CW,

As I said in the earlier post, I won't use the numerals in the dialogue. I'd do what i say in real life and either say the exact amount or round it off to the dollar, so it would come at as: Fred said, "It cost me four dollars and ninety-nine cents." or - Fred said, "It cost me five dollars."

I've yet to see a style guide intended for fiction writers, they're all aimed at formal documents and the like. Maybe I should write a fiction style guide.

StarFleet Carl

@Capt. Zapp

Got to love Inigo Montoya...

StarFleet Carl

@Crumbly Writer

However, since I and other Indie authors don't follow any specific Style Guides, we tend to go with whichever is most widely adopted instead. If any Australian Style Guides differ, then I defer to that selection as your style of choice. I just find spelling it out repeatedly a bit repetitious.


That's pretty much what I was wondering. I suspect another part of the problem is that the word usage over the centuries has also changed. I've done a bit of additional research and found that the reason Master and Mistress were used was because that's what people called each other a few hundred years ago.

Since then we've seen both words changed with negative connotations. Now the question is, do you write based upon historical accuracy, or on how you expect your modern reader to understand it?

I also note that since we do have a rather world-wide set of authors on here, we see words and usage that don't seem right to us, but are perfectly normal to the author. I suspect a lot of these style and word issues are, in the field of writing, relatively new (last 20 - 30 years), simply because people are able to easily write and publish online now. Thoughts?

Crumbly Writer

A couple responses, Carl. "Mr." stopped meaning "Master" a long time ago (also, if I'm not mistaken, "Master" refers to a child, rather than an adult, just as "Mistress" later became "Miss").

Secondly, I don't think our broader understanding is based on authors publishing more, but instead on the global reach of sites like SOL. We now need to be aware of other nationalities other than the ones we've grown up with. As many of use note the nationalities of our readers, we seek to make our stories more appropriate to them as well as those from our homelands.

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