Modern Manners
Real Simple|September 2019
Modern Manners

Real Simple’s Etiquette Expert, Catherine Newman, Offers Her Best Advice On Your Social Quandaries.

Catherine Newman


How do I properly and politically correctly address correspondence to a blended family? My granddaughter lives with her male partner and children from two relationships, all of whom have different last names. I’m never sure how to address cards, invitations, and announcements to them. I don’t want to offend anyone or leave anyone out, but I can’t figure this out. Please help.

Make a genuine good-faith effort—which you will, or you wouldn’t be asking—and your family will give you the benefit of the doubt. (If they don’t? Then that, as the young people say, is on them.) My general approach is this: all the first names on the card, all the last names on the envelope. For the latter, arrange them in alphabetical order and separate them with slashes, since hyphens presume joined last names (if there are hyphenated names in the mix, simply include them): The Elkalai/Jackson/Park-Patel/Smith Family. This method happily errs on the side of thoroughness while simultaneously calling this motley-named household what it is: a family.


I’m never sure of the “right” thing to say in the event of a tragedy, whether in a card or in person. Sometimes I worry so much about saying something insensitive that I don’t send the card at all. Could you recommend a few kind sentences to offer a grieving person?


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September 2019