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I'm writing a business recommendation, and since it's a proxy for a proper name, it seems like capitalization might be in order, but it looks odd.

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If only I remembered the name of that Waiter, I wouldn't have to capitalize every word that refers to Him... –  RegDwigнt Jun 24 '12 at 14:53
@Reg, point taken; my comment about proxies getting capitalized sounds silly once I take the time to consider it. –  Jaydles Jun 24 '12 at 15:27
I scrolled through some Google Books search results, and found plenty of examples of both cases: some in title case, and some in lower case after the first "T". I'm not sure there's a definitive answer. –  J.R. Jun 24 '12 at 22:25
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2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

The only word that should be capitalized is the first one, "To", since it's the beginning of a sentence, even if it is a fragment on its own.

The only words that are capitalized on their own are proper nouns, and standing in for a name doesn't promote something to proper-noun status. Otherwise we'd have to capitalize pronouns ("I heard that He said to do this"), which is generally only done when referring to a deity.

An exception to all of this is when something is a title. Unless you're writing a book titled "To Whom It May Concern", in a letter, this should be capitalized like a sentence.

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A book with that title – indeed, that's been done before. –  J.R. Jun 24 '12 at 22:13
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I see no particular reason to put the first letter of any of the words in capitals except the first one, but it's really a matter of personal style. You could capitalise all the initial letters, or you could put the whole thing in capitals and underline it if you thought doing so served some purpose.

(You might want to consider whether you need to use such a salutation at all.)

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what would you suggest instead, for a formal letter where I don't know the specific recipients' names or titles (I'm recommending someone for a fellowship sponsored by an organization) –  Jaydles Jun 24 '12 at 15:26
@Jaydles: As I said, I'd suggest you consider whether you need any such salutation at all. Still, it's up to you. –  Barrie England Jun 24 '12 at 16:18
you mean no salutation at all? Just start with the body? –  Jaydles Jun 24 '12 at 16:37
@Jaydles: I think that's what I'd do, but it's a matter of personal style. It's just that 'To whom it may concern' sounds legalistic, old-fashioned and distant, to my ears. –  Barrie England Jun 24 '12 at 16:39
@Barrie: You're not alone. –  J.R. Jun 24 '12 at 22:27
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