View Full Version : Alternative to opening a letter "Dear Sir/Madam"

10-11-2003, 03:05 PM
When I don't know the name or gender of a formal letter's intended recipient, is there an alternative to opening with "Dear Sir/Madam ".

I've always thought that it sounded really clunky and using it has always made me cringe. So, do I have any alternatives or am I just going to have to try and get over my dearsir/madamphobia?

10-11-2003, 03:26 PM
For formal letters, you could use title - Dear Doctor, Dear Professor, Dear Representative.

10-11-2003, 05:20 PM
"Dear Sirs" is the best substitute I know of, in the hope that you won't offend a female recipient because it's fairly nonspecific. "To whom it may concern" seems way too stuffy. But "Sir\Madam" irritates me intensely as well. Sigh.

The problem is that many companies don't like to give a name, or even the gender of a likely recipient. Not unreasonable, but still irritating.

10-11-2003, 06:27 PM
I've had a few pleasant responses to my use of


10-11-2003, 06:42 PM
If I'm sending a 'pissed off' letter, all I put is the date, and then I charge right into my rant. I never get responces to these letters, but it sure feels good.


10-11-2003, 06:45 PM
If you want to be a bit more polite than Itfire, "To whom it may concern" works okay.

10-11-2003, 09:35 PM
I like "Dear Ladies and Gentlemen" if you are not writing to a specific individual.

It is problematic when you are writing to a specific individual whose name you know but you still don't know the gender.

Fifteen Iguana
10-11-2003, 09:52 PM
Gentry. Been using it for years, and haven't had a complaint yet.

Fifteen Iguana

10-11-2003, 09:53 PM
I've been getting great results with "Greetings!"

10-11-2003, 10:36 PM
I tend to use Greetings! also. But I suppose these would also work:

Good Day!

My Best Wishes!

Dear Friend,

Peace Be With You!

How You Doin'?


I Need Help!


My Dear Customer Representative,


Exqueeze me,

Hi, What Are You Wearing?

Greetings and Salivations!

Do You Have A Name, Or Can I Call You Mine?

Your Daddy Must Have Been A Baker, 'Cause You've Got Nice Buns,

If I Told You 'You Have A Nice Body,' Would You Hold It Against Me?

I Wonder What Our Children Will Look Like,

Do You Have A Quarter? Because My Mommy Told Me To Call Her When I Fell In Love,

Umm... what was the topic again?

10-11-2003, 10:45 PM
You can simply omit the salutation altogether if "Dear Sir or Madam" really bothers you. Use a professional title if possible. I would avoid "To whom it may concern" since it sounds cold and indifferent (I believe it originated in legal correspondence and has slight antagonistic connotations).

"Greetings" is nice though I'm not sure it is appropriate in formal correspondence - you be the judge.

10-11-2003, 11:02 PM
If at all possible, I find out the name and title of a live human being to address the letter to. If I can't do that, I use "Dear Madam or Sir." If you don't like that, my three suggestions would be:

-- Use a general title, like "Dear Customer Service Representative;"

-- Address the letter to the company, like "Dear General Motors;"

-- Do away with the salutation altogether by using a memo format instead of a letter format: "To: General Motors/ From: Mr. Scroph."

But personally I find all of those to be more stilted than "Dear Madam or Sir," so that's what I continue to use (but only after I've made an effort to find a live human being to address, and haven't been able to). Other salutations like "Greetings!" strike me as particularly tinny, though obviously YMMV.

And I always use "Madam or Sir," not "Sir" or "Sirs." Chances are about even that your letter will land in the hands of a woman, and she may not agree with the assertion that the masculine forms of address include the feminine. I'm a woman, and I don't buy it myself. It's not like it's that much harder to use a generalized salutation that correctly acknowledges that the recipient might be of either gender.

10-12-2003, 12:03 AM
For semi-formal, a dear freind uses "Gentlepersons -". I find it charming, but would not advise it for formal writing - Stick with:

Dear (honorific) surname - (if known)
Dear (title) - (if known and appropriate)
Dear Madame/Sir - (if addressing an individual)
Dear Mesdames/Sirs - (if addressing a collective)

10-12-2003, 09:32 AM
A common salutation used to be


I like this variation--


Hari Seldon
10-12-2003, 10:15 AM
If I am writing to a person by name and don't know the sex, then it is likely to be fairly formal anyway and I write

Dear J. Smith:

and if they don't like that, tough. If an unknown person, then the old

To whom it may concern

or none at all seems appropriate.

10-12-2003, 10:39 AM
Cecil, as always, was ahead of his time. (https://academicpursuits.us/classics/a2_272.html)

My mother uses "Dear People", but I always thought that sounded a little odd. I use "To Whom It May Concern", brick-over-the-wall concerns notwithstanding.

10-12-2003, 12:12 PM
Just a for few more ideas, here, you could also use "Respected Correspondant:", or maybe "Honored Colleague:".

Of course, in my line of work, it's easy. You just call everyone "doctor", because they probably are, and even if they're not, they probably won't be upset at being called one.

10-12-2003, 03:03 PM
Originally posted by Extraneous
Dear Mesdames/Sirs - (if addressing a collective)
Dear Mesdames/Sirs,

I am writing regarding your recent claim concerning the futility of my resistance to being assimilated in your collective. I am not now, nor do I ever wish to be part of your nor any other collective. Your assertion of futility of resistance notwithstanding, I will most certainly resist!

If you do not cease and desist from attempting to inject your nanoprobes into my body in order to remake it into a slave drone of your hivemind, I shall be forced to seek a restraining order against you and any of your cyberandroidian representatives.

I hope you take this complaint seriously, or else the next correspondence will be from my lawyer or one of the members of my lawyer's lawhive, and then we'll see who's collective ass gets assimilated!

Thank-you for your parallel-processed attention to this matter.

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