Page last updated at 12:04 GMT, Thursday, 23 July 2009 13:04 UK

How do you address the great and the good?

By Megan Lane
BBC News Magazine

Mr or Esq? Miss, Ms or Mrs? If writing to Andrew Flintoff, or the Gallagher brothers, or Vanessa-Mae, or Tracey Emin, what's the correct form of address? A new guide offers some advice.

Andrew and Rachael Flintoff
Esquire on the envelope, Mr and Mrs Andrew Flintoff on the invitation

Debrett's People of Today is now available online for the first time. Among its nuggets is the correct style when addressing correspondence to each of its 25,000 entrants. It's information not available in its rival publication, Who's Who.

So Sir Alan is now The Lord Sugar. It's Andrew Flintoff, Esq, MBE, but Mr Kevin Pietersen, MBE.

And why is it David Beckham, Esq and Simon Cowell, Esq but plain old Liam Gallagher? For Kate Winslet it's Miss, but Ms for Tracey Emin and Fern Britton - and just Nigella Lawson, no honorific?

Other than conferred honours such as an OBE or knighthood, the title used - Esq or Mr, Miss, Ms or Mrs - is the choice of the entrant themselves.

"Esquire is more formal than Mr, and only used in written correspondence," says Charles Kidd, editor of Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage. "It's more old fashioned, and you would only use it on an envelope."

Nor is it ever written out in full.

So if one were to invite the Ashes hero to one's wedding or summer party, the envelope would be addressed to "Andrew Flintoff, Esq" but the invitation card itself would read "Mr and Mrs Andrew Flintoff".

Is that Ms?

As for women, Ms has been gaining currency. Although Debrett's has not kept a tally of the number of women choosing Ms over Miss or Mrs, anecdotal evidence suggests it is increasingly popular amongst entrants.

Esq: Martin Johnson, Ozwald Boateng, Will Young, John Humphrys, Monty Panesar
Mr: Andy Murray, Mark Ronson
Ms: Paula Radcliffe, Denise Lewis, Joss Stone, Helen Fielding
Miss: Vanessa-Mae, Kate Winslet, Elaine Paige, Kate Bush, Kate Moss
Just plain old...: Nigella Lawson, Liam and Noel Gallagher, Damon Albarn, Kate Beckinsale

"This is especially for women who keep their maiden name for professional reasons. And women are getting married later, and don't want to be 'Miss' as they get older," says a Debrett's spokeswoman.

Then there are those with no honorific, such as Nigella Lawson, the brothers Gallagher, and actor James McAvoy.

In some cases, this is a deliberate rejection of the tradition of honorifics. Others might simply have failed to fill in this section on the form.

Others could conceivably be trying to turn the tradition on its head. Art scammers Jake and Dinos Chapman, who once drew on Goya originals, label themselves as Professor Jake Chapman (mail order) and Dinos Chapman, Esq.

Mr Kidd says use of the term "esquire" was once reserved for gentlemen.

"But as class divisions frayed around the edges, it became more widely used."

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Mrs? Or is that Ms, Miss?
20 Mar 09 |  UK

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