Alternatives to "To Whom It May Concern"

We were taught that “To whom it may concern” was not considered an effective greeting. I’ve used “Dear Sir or Madam” for years when writing to someone who I didn’t know. But I’m still making a reference to the gender of the recipient, basically stating that I don’t know it. Plus sir or madam implies adulthood in the recipient, which may not be the case. So is there anything more effective when addressing someone you don’t know?

‘Darling Fascist Bully-Boy…’

If you are writing to a business, and you know the position of the person you want to address, you might say “Dear CEO” or “Dear HR Manager”. If you know something else about the person, you might write something like “Dear neighbor” or “Dear fellow baseball fan”.

I just do a simple “greetings:”.

What** lorinda** said. The greeting of any correspondence is largely perfunctory anyway.

My serious answer: I agree with Giles. When I write to a company I’ll use ‘Dear Human Resources Representative’, ‘Dear Customer Service Representative’, etc.

My question is for when you don’t know who will be reading the letter at all. This came about because I recently wrote a reference letter for a former business acquaintence left her company. She will be moving so she asked for a few copies of a recommendation letter. I used the “Dear Sir or Madam” but it got me thinking.

Lorinada and Askia, for some reason “Greetings” doesn’t seem professional enough, although I did neglect to mention that requirement in my OP.

“Dear Whom”

If I don’t have any idea, I just leave off the greeting. No one has ever objected to it, and it’s worked just fine when applying for jobs.

No one really cares, and people are less likely to notice a missing greeting than an awkward one.

I sometimes use:

Dear Sir/Madam:

Herewith what I was taught:

‘To whom it may concern’ is used when the letter is to be given by the holder to anybody - for example, you write a letter of introduction for a relation, or an open letter of reference (that the person sends to prospective employers) for a good employee.

Something like:

*To whom it may concern,

Jane Blogs was a first-class employee …*


*To whom it may concern,

The bearer of this letter is …*

Letters of introduction were more important before the telephone age, but are still relevant, especially if signed by someone important. Just imagine the doors that would open for you if you held a letter of introduction from Bill Gates!

‘Dear Sir or Madam’ is used when you are addressing the occupant of a particular post where you do not know their name or writing to a random member of an organisation. For instance, if you were writing to Trading Standards, because your letter could be read by any officer, you would start your letter something like:

*Dear Sir or Madam,

I wish to complain …*

Or if you were writing to the Comptroller-General, you’d put the address as ‘The Comptroller-General…’ and start the letter ‘Dear Sir or Madam’

I hope this helps.

This makes sense to me. Thanks.

I’ve been an adminitrative assistant for years and have never used the term “Dear” in a business letter. It just dosen’t fit. They aren’t “Dear” to me or my company. If I didn’t know to whom I was writing the address would simply be “Sir/Madam” or just “Recipient” with a colon.

“Yo dude,”

Sometimes when I am writing to a company or organization and I don’t know who will be responding to the letter, I will simply omit the salutation entirely:

XYZ Bank
123 Main Street
Town, ST 12345

Re: Account 456789

Please close this account and mail me a check for the balance.

Thank you.

Very truly yours,



Seriously, I used that back in the '70s.

Don’t know why I forgot to mention that most of the time I leave the greeting off altogether, like RealityChuck and Billdo. I’ve been unemployed for four months so I have sent a lot of cover letters out lately. Of course, if I know the name or position of who’s receiving my resume that’s who I greet. If I know the name of the company but not the name or title of the recipient I leave out the greeting altogether. If it’s completely blind I do the “Greetings” thing.

My sister and my best friend were both laid off about the same time I was, and we’ve been passing around each other’s cover letters and resumes for tips. They both have much more experience than me in business letters - both in writing and receiving since they started out in administrative positions and moved into management (my position has always been more of a technical one so even once I moved into management there was little written correspondence) and I borrowed these techniques from them. FWIW.

My office once got a letter from a state agency (of course, this is Georgia…) that started out “Folks:”. :dubious:

Dear Sir or Madam

Will you read my book? It took me years to write, will you take a look?

Dear Sir, you cur,
Probably should be reserved for occasions when you are writing to the utility company for an overbill.