Life Advice



Ladies And Gentlemen: Inclusive Alternatives Abound

Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin on

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I was teaching a graduate course in 1978 and addressed the class with, Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, a female student immediately stood and announced the following:

We females are all 'women'; however, not all of us are 'ladies.'

I stood corrected, and told her that I understood; from then until now, so many years later, I have referred to females as women and not ladies.

So my question is: Do we say ladies and gentlemen or men and women?

GENTLE READER: Other categories have been recognized since 1978, so you should be saying, Good evening, class.

But your question remains. The terms ladies and gentlemen imply that those so designated are well-behaved. Miss Manners has been using those terms in the hope of encouraging them to be so. But she admits that there is a social tinge to the terms, which are at best quaint in nonsocial situations, and at worst, patronizing and exclusionary.


This is especially true when, as is all too common, the females are called ladies while the males are called men, which seems to establish a difference in the seriousness of their presence. That is likely the basis of your student's objection.

Still, the common way of addressing an audience, ladies and gentlemen, is more graceful than men and women -- although alternative conventions will eventually surface. It is always possible to say, Good morning, everyone.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Have the rules changed for sending condolence notes?

When my parents, in-laws and other close family members passed away in years past, I sent handwritten notes to everyone who brought food, sent flowers or made a memorial donation, but I did not send notes to those who came to the visitation or sent a card or note.


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