There are so many variations on how we address our loved ones.

The question is: which is the most appropriate to use in a story?

Any, as long as it fits. If you’re writing a story set in the south, chances are the use of momma will work out fine. Mother usually works best in upper class settings (or a setting in the past). Mom is normal—the safest bet. Ma is either teasingly said, or let’s be real, hick. And just forget about mommy.

If it’s awkward, don’t use it, don’t force it, and don’t use different variations.

My favorite is mother, father, etc. It sounds so much nicer to me; smoother. I try to use them without being pretentious. Even though I think using those forms don’t always make sense in a story, I try to use them anyway. Then if I get to a point where mother no longer works, and I can’t get around it, I change the form throughout the story.

Here’s what I think, in using mother, father, etc. my experience has taught me that those forms work best in prose but not dialogue (unless of course the setting already fits.)

Example: “My mother taught me how to sew by handing me a needle, thread, and my father’s old button up, then told me to practice until the hole wasn’t ugly anymore.”


“Mother, where can I find the extra thread?” I said

“I think you father put it in the garage,” my mother answered.

(Maybe it’s because the only time I have called my mom “mother” is when I’m annoyed that it feels awkward to use it in dialogue.)

What’s important is to stay consistent. If I change it in one place, I change them all. Unless, it’s obvious that the character is teasing or intentional. I’d guess the vast majority of people only have one way they refer to their mom and dad, so why wouldn’t our characters?

Here’s the solution to my problem: bring back the normality of mother, father, grandfather, and grandmother. Say them out loud, and then compare how they feel in your mouth in comparison to their harsher counterparts: Mom, dad, grandpa, and grandma. They end hard, whereas the others are softer.

I’m joking about that “solution” (I wouldn’t be if I thought it were possible. Let’s bring back proper hat wearing and—ah getting dressed for dinner, too—but I suppose that’s another topic.)

Has anyone experienced this small hinderance as well?