Q: Dear Hillbilly Debutante,
I sent a sympathy card to one of my mother's friends whose husband recently passed away. I addressed the card to "Mrs. John Smith", however my co-worker says that once a woman is widowed she uses the name, "Mrs. Susan Smith." Who is correct?
A. Actually, both of you. But. *Tradition states that she retains her title of "Mrs. John Smith" until she remarries, however in recent years "Mrs. Susan Smith" has become acceptable and is not a breach of etiquette.
With that said, allow me to share my opinion on why traditional is 'better'. 'Mrs. Susan Smith' seems too 'abrupt'. There will be many cruel reminders in the days ahead that life as she knew it is no longer. I would leave it up to her to decide when she is ready to move on.
And of course, "Mrs. John Smith" is more formal. My number one rule? If in doubt, always side on the err of formality.
*If you are from the south always use the traditional rule of etiquette.