Law Society’s Gazette, June 1971

‘House Style’ for a Law Office by A. G. McBain and Jean Field

Notes for those taking up secretarial appointments in a law office.

Forms of Address. As regards the Peerage, you will most often encounter barons and others who will be life peers. All should be addressed as ‘The Lord Snooks’ and, in practice, you will find your boss will, in the great majority of cases, begin with ‘Dear Lord Snooks’; in a case where formality is required it will be ‘My Lord’; and the singular ‘My Lord’ will also be used when it is a firm writing in the first person plural.

Where an addressee is the younger son of a Marquess (Marquis) he will be ‘Lord George Snooks’ and a daughter ‘Lady Caroline Snooks’. (But these being courtesy titles they do not rank for the definite article and are not ‘The Lord George Snooks’.) A Marquess is addressed as ‘The Marquess of Blank’ and the salutation is ‘Dear Lord Blank’.

In the case of a dukedom it is simply ‘The Duke of Blank’ and the salutation is ‘Dear Duke of Blank’.

If you have, formally, to address two unmarried sisters as ‘The Misses Mary and Margaret Snooks’ many people commence the letter with the one word ‘Mesdames’; some as ‘Dear Misses’ (which seems to sound too like ‘near misses’).

I know of no rule, except the cowardly one, of addressing only the elder as ‘Dear Miss Mary’ and adding, as a postscript, ‘Please show this letter to your sister’.

Married Women. When should you employ a married woman’s first name or that of her husband?

As a matter of courtesy, the proper practice is to use the husband’s initials or first name in ordinary correspondence, and the same applies to widows, but it will be found that the Collector of Taxes, Banker or Company Registrar may use her own first name.

Divorced women should be addressed by their own first name, i.e. Mrs Mary Snooks.

Grammar. Better forget all you have been taught at school about ‘shall’ and ‘will’ and ‘should’ and ‘would’, and the subjunctive mood. ‘Fings Ain’t wot they used T’be’!

Letters to the editor

Dear Sir,Decimal Coinage

I could not agree less with Mr. R. S. W. Pollard. Most of the claims made in favour of decimal coinage are quite spurious and are out-weighed by the disadvantages of the change-over.

The bulk of the people of this country are quite happy with the present regime.

The metric system has been legal here since 1878 and if people had wanted to use it they would have done so by now. But, in fact, who does outside a laboratory?

Yours faithfully

F. C. Anderson, London EC4