“There is a void in the English language which we undertake to fill,” wrote a journalist from a Massachusetts newspaper in 1901. “Everyone has been put in an embarrassing position by ignorance of the status of some woman. To call a maiden Mrs. is only a shade worse than to insult a matron with the inferior title Miss. Yet it is not always easy to know the facts.”
The writer was explaining the newspaper’s use of the word Ms. – a freshly coined title. Ms. was the marital-status-neutral alternative to Miss or Mrs. It seemed like an innovative, simple swap. For years though the two-letter title Ms. was met with controversy—from both women and men. Some women wanted their marital status noted. Others, especially those in the workplace, didn’t want their title to disclose whether they were married. Whose business was it anyway? Men were called Mr. whether they were married or not.
Double standards are stubborn things though. It wasn’t until 1986, that the New York Times recognized Ms. as an alternative to Mrs. or Miss. Now, the title Ms. is commonplace. Few think anything of it. Ms. set a precedent though for a title that is becoming increasingly common around the world in print and in formal documents—Mx.
Pronounced “mix”, Mx. is a gender-neutral alternative to the usual titles. The Oxford English Dictionary defines Mx. as “A title used before a person’s surname or full name by those who wish to avoid specifying their gender or by those who prefer not to identify themselves as male or female.”
Many Americans haven’t come across Mx. yet for a few reasons. We generally don’t use courtesy titles anymore. Also, Mx. has only gained traction in the last few years in this country, as more people who identify as gender nonconforming, nonbinary or transgender come out.
“This is an example of how the English language adapts to people’s needs, with people using language in ways that suit them rather than letting language dictate identity to them,” the assistant editor of the Oxford English Dictionary told the London Times.
At SDC, we have always striven to support diversity, recognizing and respecting our differences, and embracing our sameness. Like many others around the world, we feel it’s time to add Mx. into the daily mix of titles. Just as SDC, a woman-owned firm, readily adopted the title Ms., we will now be using Mx. as the courtesy title of address for everyone on our documents—in recognition of the fact that it is not our titles that define us, but our abilities and our actions.