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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

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

"To whom it may concern" is correct according to Gregg, the only style guide I could find that addressed this issue completely. However, I found the Chicago Manual of Style using a version that capitalized every word - but they had no citation or Q&A entry to back it up. I found this web resource that backs it up, though. Purdue's OWL concurs, capitalizing it the same way.

From this page that references the Gregg Reference Manual that asks the same question as was asked here:

The first word, all nouns, and all titles are capitalized in the salutation. That's according to The Gregg Reference Manual. Gregg says nothing about the last word. As pronouns, all and everyone would not be capitalized unless they were the first word or part of someone's title, according to Gregg.

The only words that are capitalized on their own in a salutation are the first word or any 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.

Again, please note that this is an issue of style, and there probably is no "correct" answer, but there doubtless is a standard in general usage.

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A book with that title – indeed, that's been done before. –  J.R. Jun 24 '12 at 22:13
    
"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." This phrase is not, in fact, a sentence. It is a salutation. Therefore, rules for sentences are not a guideline for capitalization, unless salutations follow identical capitalization rules to sentences. –  C. Chadwick Jul 26 at 15:15
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@C.Chadwick: Salutations do follow identical capitalization rules to sentences. –  DougM Jul 26 at 15:19
    
@C.Chadwick You make a good point. I did some research, and it seems I was correct but for the wrong reason. I've updated this answer. –  Neil Fein Jul 27 at 2:09
    
@DougM - If you can back that up with a citation, I'll add it to my answer to make it more complete. –  Neil Fein Jul 27 at 2:10

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

protected by tchrist Jul 26 at 15:19

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