Posted by: Jack Henry | November 15, 2022

Editor’s Corner: Mx.

I am so glad to work for a company where equity and inclusion are an important part of the culture. In our documentation, instead of writing “he and she,” “his/hers,” or using some other clunky alternative, we have adopted the terms “they,” “them” and “their” to cover everyone, regardless of gender. We continue to track what is acceptable and preferable to people, and strive to make all of our readers feel “at home.”

I’ve wondered, though, about other businesses and other parts of Jack Henry. What do writers do if they have to send something to clients by mail? What do our clients do when sending statements to their members and customers? It is standard to address people with a title or honorific, such as Mr., Mrs., or Ms. But really, in a world of men, women, and non-binary people named Terry, Tracy, or Carol, how do you address envelopes and emails respectfully without knowing how the recipient identifies themself?

That’s what I’m here to discuss today.

As with pronouns, the safest way to use the appropriate honorific, is to ask, “What is your preferred title?” But you don’t always have the opportunity to ask a person before you address that letter. Just guessing could not only be wrong, but some people might be offended. Let’s have a look at honorifics and the tangled web that has been woven.

Historically, we’ve used Mr. (from master) for all men: bachelors or married. Mrs. and Miss are from mistress; Mrs. is a married woman and Miss is an unmarried woman. But as women fought for and gained independence, they decided they should have a title that did not indicate their marital status.

Which brings us to the next term, Ms. In the 1950s, Ms. became an option for women who didn’t want to identify themselves as “a married female” or “an unmarried female.” Similarly, a couple of decades later, folks realized that gender in the title wasn’t necessary either. Doctor, reverend, and rabbi are genderless titles. Finally, some peeps in the 1970s came up with an altogether genderless honorific: Mx.

Mx., pronounced “miks” or “muhks,” did not really gain traction until the 2000s, according the article I read. We’re already in the 2020s, and I have yet to see it available as a title when filling out a form. From

What does Mx. stand for?

Mx. is a riff on the classic gendered titles Mr. and Ms. It keeps the M and swaps the gendered element of these terms for the gender-neutral X. The letter X has historically been used as a symbol for the unknown or indescribable. In this way, it is perfect for a gender-neutral honorific. Mx. shows respect while leaving the gender unknown or unarticulated.

Perhaps will see an upsurge of Mx. offered as a choice on forms one of these days soon!

Kara Church | Technical Editor, Advisory | Technical Publications

Pronouns: she/her | Call via Teams |

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