Here’s a tricky problem of etiquette. Recently, a woman who had been on a training course I’d run sent me an email to ask for some information about the written assignment; and she opened it with “Hi Mr Brandon”. This of course is not my name. English is not the woman’s first language so she probably thought she was being extra-polite. The English convention of using “Mr” only for surnames is not universal: in Japanese, for example, the honorific san can go after the first name or the surname. Still, in English it is a firm rule that you can’t put “Mr” before a first name; and someone who does so sounds untutored and unsophisticated. So, here’s the dilemma: should I have told the student she was getting it wrong? I could have said, “My name is not Mr Brandon; it is Mr Robshaw. Or Brandon if you want to be friendly.” But then she might have thought me rude; she might have felt rebuked. But she would have learned something important. But then again, I’m not paid to teach her English, just to mark her assignment.
In the end I decided to say nothing about it. But was I right?