Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Monograms But Were Afraid To Ask

MonogramWhen you were born did you get a bunch of silver cups and bowls and rattles and crap with your initials on them? Were you not at all confused attending your Southern University when suddenly everyone had Vera Bradley bags sporting three letters embroidered on (and not Greek letters either)? Then this guide is not for you. But if you still have some questions about how monograms (not to be confused with mammograms) work, then read on!

A monogram is simply a persons initials. Where it gets complicated is how to write those initials and where to put it.

Generally, there are two ways to do a monogram. First Middle Last initials vs First Last Middle initials. If you do the first, then you are going to want all three letters to be the same size. Like so:


If you want you last initial in the middle, then you make it bigger than the surrounding initials. Like so:


It is slightly more traditional to use the first form for a man and the second form for a woman, but you all know how we at Uncommon Courtesy feel about THAT. If one of these arrangements spells out something unfortunate, you would generally be advised to pick the other one, but ymmv.

You may also use just a single initial, but using your last initial is the convention.

If a married couple used a combined monogram, it goes Her First Last His First. Of course this only really works if you have the same name. Same sex couples usually use just two initials, either both first initials or both last, so that could be a good convention to follow for heterosexual couples with different last names.

A hyphenated last name can be written thus: A|B but you should just stick to the initials of the last name.

So what do you put these lovely letters on? The Original Preppy Handbook says: anything your WASPY little heart desires EXCEPT: suits, cashmere scarves, your dog’s collar, your china (lest you look like a hotel- quelle horreur!), your car. There are apparently special rules for monogramming mens shirts- basically to put it in sneaky places so it’s never visible but you know that it’s there.

Formality of the monogram should match the formality of the item. A silver cup for a baby should have a fairly formal monogram- perhaps a bit swirly and grand, but a bib can have something festive that looks like cutesy handwriting. Women generally can get away with fancier monograms and men generally stick to block letters. First names can be used for children for informal things, but many people choose to stick to the initials so the child’s name isn’t right there for strangers to see.

If you are dealing with monograms around a weddings there are some specific rules you are supposed to follow, which I am including here for thoroughness sake, but do whatever you want. Technically, if it is something you will use before the wedding, it should have your maiden name monogram. If you want to monogram wedding stuff like invitations etc you use both first initals like this: A&B. You never use the married monogram until after you say I do. However, if you want your registry gifts monogramed, it is fine to register for them with the married monogram since you aren’t supposed to use them until after the wedding anyway.

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