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When writing a formal letter addressed to someone whose gender is unknown, how important is it to use "Dear Sir or Madam", instead of "Dear Sir"?

I was taught that "Dear Sir" is an acceptable gender-neutral salutation but times may have changed, is this right or wrong?

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Dear Sir may have been an acceptable gender-neutral salutation some time ago, but I would suggest 'To whom it may concern,' as a more modern and suitable alternative :)

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When the addressee is in the same field as the writer, you can use the address Dear Colleague.

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  • I like that; hadn't thought of it before. – Pieter Geerkens Sep 5 '13 at 2:27
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    Don't you find that it always rains when you try to write a letter in a field? – Edwin Ashworth Sep 5 '13 at 7:17
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    @EdwinAshworth No, because I am not a man out standing in his field. – bib Sep 5 '13 at 12:23
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The proper way to begin a formal letter to someone whose gender is unknown is with the "Dear Sir/Madam," phrase while At the end the letter use the phrase "Yours faithfully," plus your full name, like the template that follows:

Dear Sir/Madam,

....

Yours faithfully, Your full name

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    Might offend someone going through a sex change. – RyeɃreḁd Sep 5 '13 at 21:19

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