Letter writing question

Salutation help
I find myself needing to write several letters where I do not know the gender of the recipiant. I’m from the old school where Dear Sir: was acceptable. Things were easier back then. I’ve been pondering this for a while and deciced not to use;
[li]Dear Whoever[/li][li]Yo head person in charge[/li][li]Dear Sir or Madam[/li][/ul]
So what is the proper Salutation now days.

I don’t know “proper” (such things are in a state of flux right now), but I’d use:

Dear Terry Smith:

Or leave out the salutation altogether.

Well “To whom it may concern” is effective, however, depending on the nature of the letter (like a cover letter for a job, for example), getting the actual person’s name is always better.

I’ll second this, for the reason given by alice_in_wonderland.

I’ll recommend against this.

So I break even, I guess.

Oddly enough, I was pondering that very question yesterday. A lot depends on whom you are writing to and why. I have to write a letter to the editor of a journal, asking permission to reprint something that appeared 45 years ago. They have no web site (that google knows about, anyway), but I do have an address. If I had an email address, I would just omit the salutation, but I couldn’t find that either. So I will send it by snail and say, “To the editor”. A very informal letter could start, “Dear Gentleperson”. I think there is no standard and you have to fit the situation.

Reconsider; “Dear Sir or Madam” is an excellent salutation, more personable than “To whom it may concern.”

I agree that Dear Madam or Sir is the way to go.

I know a lot of people are uncomfortable with common courtesy, but I think getting used to it would be a step in the right direction. Personally, I’m annoyed to receive emails that have no salutation.

If you know their name but not their gender, use their name.

The argument against “Dear Sir or Madam”/“Dear Madam or Sir” as I see it (aside from the fact that the OP had already eliminated it) is that it screams, I didn’t bother to even try finding out your gender.

It seems from the OP that all attempts have been made to identify the addressee.

In cases when this is not possible, I use “Dear sir or madam” (or “Dear madam or sir,” when I believe that the recipient is likely to be female), without capitalizing the titles. I like it because it’s somewhat formal, but not stuffy.

“To whom it may concern” strikes me as much too impersonal - and an invitation for the reader to decide it does not concern him or her, or anyonel else for that matter.

Another vote for “Dir Sir or Madam.” That’s what I learned in the Real World School of Legal Secretaryism. And lawyers are notoriously picky about this sort of thing.

A vote here for “Dear Pat Stevens.”

You know the person’s name – best to use it. “Dear Sir or Madam” is IMHO unbelievably stilted and canned and sounds like a form letter. Another point is that people with ambiguous names have likely gotten annoyed by people guessing the wrong sex or using dodges like “Sir or Madam.” Keep it personalized and use their name. Also solves the rare case of people who don’t identify with one gender or the other.

I don’t find it at all clear from the OP that “all attempts have been made to identify the addressee.” Can you call the person’s employer or other contact to find out if it’s a man or a woman?

Yeah, among the lawyers I know, “Dear Sir or Madam” is still the way to go. It may be old-fashioned and it may be over-formalized, but lawyers generally don’t object to either of those accusations anyway. This is assuming, of course, you don’t know the individual’s name – like a letter to a department or company.

If the person’s name is known but the gender is not: Well, first I’d do all I could to find out the gender, through a phone call or whatever. If not, I’d probably go with “Dear Mr./Ms. Stevens” which, while awkward, indicates (a) you don’t know their gender but (b) you’re not presuming to use their first name in a formal correspondence.

I vote “ick” for “Dear Pat Stevens.” It me it’s no more personalized that “Dear Sir or Madam,” because the recipient knows you don’t know their gender – if you did, you’d use Mr. or Ms. Besides, it’s stilted: When’s the last time you greeted someone, “Hi, David Jones!” or said “What would you like to eat, Sue Smith?”

If you have an actual name, you should be able to discover an actual gender. If it’s to persons unknown, I’d still go with “Dear Sir or Madam.”

“Good Morning”

Since I’ve been answering a lot of help wanted ads lately, I find myself running into this problem roughly once a day.

I’ve decided that unless I’m absolutely sure of the sex of the person I’m writing to (and an awful lot of them have names like Pat or Chris), I eliminate the salutation and replace it with a subject line, as in

“Re: Wall Street Journal 5/01/02”

And then go straight into the body of the letter.

I believe Miss Manners accepts this form, although she endorses making an effort to find out just who the recipient actually is.

OK this is the pro weighing in, justwannano, I write business letters every day since about 1986, to lawyers, bankers, company presidents, proposing deals, telling them they don’t have a case, across international borders, you name it.

You usually can’t go wrong eliminating the salutation. You’re going to have the date, address, attention to, and re:. If the “attention to” is to a position, such as “Manager, Human Resources”, skip the salutation. If it’s a person’s name and you are confident about the sex, use “Mr.” or “Ms”, as in “Dear Ms. O’Donnell”. Now for a tip…if you’ve met the person socially you can go so far as to say “Dear George”, but make sure you are exceptionally polite through the remainder of the letter to avoid any offensive familiarity.

Me too. When I receive a letter like that, I’m sure the next line is going to inform me of how I’ve been specially selected to be put forward for the prize draw to select the entrants for the mega draw to win the chance etc etc etc

Scarlett 67: “You know the person’s name – best to use it. ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ is IMHO unbelievably stilted and canned and sounds like a form letter.”

I read the OP as not having a name at all. In which case I would go with Dear Sir or Madam.

If you know the name but can’t determine the sex, I would go with those who say use no salutation; even though I’ve used “Dear Pat Smith,” thinking this was the way to go, I think it’s better without the salutation at all in this situation. The person reading the letter probably won’t even notice.

Oh the number of times I wished I could just put “Yo head person in charge.”