Does Anyone Use ‘Messrs.’?

Dear Miss Cards Etiquette,

I have a couple of questions in regards to sending holiday greeting cards to business associates. First, is it still appropriate to address a card to two gentlemen with Messrs.? Second, is it considered appropriate etiquette to address a card to someone’s attention? Example: ATTN: Mr. John Smith. And lastly, what if you need to address a card to two associates that are not married? Would putting Mr. John Smith and Mrs. Sue Jones be appropriate?

Thank you,

Good questions, Michelle! I’ll go through them from easiest to hardest (which happens to be the reverse of your query):

  1. When addressing a card to unmarried associates, put their names either in order of status (if you’re certain of it), or in alphabetical order by surname. In your example, Mr. John Smith and Mrs. Sue Jones is perfectly acceptable if John is perhaps a senior partner and Sue is the junior. Otherwise, if they are equal partners, put their names in alphabetical order.
  2. I would recommend against using ATTN: on a greeting card, unless the peculiarities of the company’s mail sorting protocol requires it. Addressing correspondence to someone’s attention implies that anyone in the department could respond to it, but you prefer a particular individual handle the matter. For instance: addressing a billing question to the attention of the customer service representative you spoke with on the phone. If you need to put the company name on the envelope for proper delivery, rather than using ATTN: use “Mr. John Smith” on the top line, and “c/o Company Name” on line two.
  3. Messrs. is commonly only used today when addressing a card to brothers or to a committed gay couple. However, it can also be used when addressing a card to male business associates (perhaps partners in a law firm or medical office), especially if space on the front of the envelope is limited and there are more than two gentlemen in the list. In general though, the more common usage is to list their names separately, in either order of status or alphabetical order by last name: Mr. Bob Carver and Mr. John Smith, for instance. (Also, for multiple female associates, sisters, or a committed lesbian couple, Mesdames would be the equivalent to Messrs.)