Addressing People Formally – What’s in a Title?

Whether it’s social or business circumstances, addressing people correctly can be the difference between respecting people’s position and ignoring or disregarding their qualifications.

A title is usually used with the sir name and is common while in a formal setting. However, whenever you are in doubt of whether or not to use a title, it is safe and respectful to maintain formality until the person you are addressing tells you otherwise.

Good mannerism demands that you not only recognize a person’s qualifications but also their position in society. For example; apart from addressing people with their professional qualifications like Doctor, engineer, legal counsel, or professor, it is also important to recognize people with their honor whenever you are not able to use their titles. Honorable societal acceptable titles include; Sir, Madam, Mister, Missis, and Miss.

The art of addressing people formally has been adopted all over the world and is usually associated with an individual’s sir name.

In America and other countries like Brazil, Canada, and Iceland, people address each other formally unless they are advised otherwise. For example; if someone introduced themselves as Carl Peters, then they will be addressed as Mr. Peters unless he invites people to call him Carl. Usually, a person will be direct and say “Please call me Carl” In which case people will go ahead and call him Carl even in future addresses.

This case is different in Germany where titles are always used with sir names in the present and future interactions.

In Latin America, India, the Middle East, and Africa, titles indicate that you value a person’s qualifications and expertise in different fields. For example; engineers, doctors, lawyers, nurses, and other people of noble professions are addressed by their titles as a sign of respect for their work and what is considered their significant contribution to their societies.

People in Africa are very particular about the way they are addressed. They expect to be addressed formally unless you are invited to go the informal way.

Research has proven that due to the effects of colonialism, Africans choose to be addressed formally to maintain respect and unfamiliarity.

The same case applies to Australian and China regions.

In Australia, people rarely address others with their first names. Whether a person is present or absent in a discussion, everyone is addressed formally unless informed otherwise.

For the official purpose, the Chinese also use official titles with their sir names. It is also common to omit the sir name and use the functional title instead when addressing someone. For example; you can address someone as Engineer Xiao or just by the title Engineer.

Some nicknames such as old – Lao, and young – Xiai are also acceptable along with a sir name. For example; elderly Mr. Wang can be addressed as Lao Wang in a formal setting.

Although there seem to be many similarities in formal addresses across the globe, a person must understand the culture of using titles in different places before visiting.

This will ensure that you address new people respectfully and appropriately whenever you meet with them.