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I'd like to know which form is more formal and respectful to address a respected person while referring to his name.

Should I mention the person's first name instead of writing "Sir" for example by Dear Sir + NAME, or do I only write Dear Sir? I am writing a formal letter to the rector and I'm looking for a way to address to him in a way that he will know that it is written especially for him.

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  • Why not "Dear NAME"? Nov 10, 2014 at 4:33
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    This might be cultural, but I would never address my rector by first name. "Dear Rector Smith", "Dear Professor Smith" or, if I don't know the name, "Dear Sir" (coming last since it is somewhat impersonal and cold). Never ever "Dear Michael", ever, unless I happened to be the rector's father, or board game buddy (and then it would not be much of a formal letter).
    – Amadan
    Nov 10, 2014 at 4:46
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    You are only supposed to use Sir combined with first or last names for people who have been knighted (by the United Kingdom). So you can say Dear Sir Paul McCartney, but Dear Sir John Doe doesn't cut it. Either Dear Sir or Dear Rector Doe would be fine. Aug 3, 2023 at 20:29
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    Better asked on Interpersonal Skills.SE. Aug 4, 2023 at 14:49
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    While I understand the arguments for closing this question, I believe that they are overridden by the fact that the question already has several answers, has been seen by 62K people, and is likely to be seen many thousands more, unless its is deleted. Closing such a question (without deleting it) effectively protects the existing answers from competition, which is at odds with the underlying principle of the Stack Exchange that open competition leads to the results that are most likely to be helpful to the public at large.
    – jsw29
    Aug 4, 2023 at 15:55

4 Answers 4

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Dear Sir is possibly a little over-formal these days, but the choice between Dear Rector, Dear Rector Smith, Dear Professor/Dr/Mr Smith/ and Dear Egbert will depend on the conventions in the institution in which you are studying/working. The use of the first name, unthinkable when I was at university many years ago, is becoming more common, at least in British universities. If you are unfamiliar with the conventions in your establishment, I would suggest that Dear Professor/Dr/Mr Smith is reasonably safe.

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    The problem with using Dear Sir in the way in which the OP is considering using it (i.e. with a name) is not that it is 'over-formal', but that (setting aside the cases in which the person has actually been knighted) Dear Sir has traditionally been used when the person's name is not known to the writer. Many people nowadays also find it objectionable because they perceive it as sexist (in so far as it may embody the assumption that the person must be male, even when there are no sufficient reasons for that assumption).
    – jsw29
    Aug 4, 2023 at 21:01
  • It is indeed not uncommon nowadays for university students to be on the first-name terms with those who teach them, but only if the latter have indicated that this is welcome. It would still be presumptuous for a student to use the lecturer's/professor's/rector's first name in making an initial contact with the person.
    – jsw29
    Aug 5, 2023 at 15:36
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"Dear Sir" is generally used for a person whose identity is unknown. The usual formal form of address would be "Dear Mr. ".

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    If the person's identity is unknown, then their gender is unknown as well. SO instead of "Dear Sir" use "Dear Sir or Madam" Dec 5, 2014 at 13:01
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    @Sarah Don't do that. "To whom it may concern" or "Dear Sirs" (for an organisation) is vastly preferred.
    – Marcin
    Dec 5, 2014 at 14:43
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Please read first Debrett's Correct Form and then Burke's Peerage, either of which every search engine will instantly show you.

They will tell you exactly how to address anyone in any position and often explain why, as well.

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The most formal, respectful and deferential way of addressing a person today is Respected Sir, or Respected Madam. Use it when the other person is clearly not your equal in any way, and stands very much higher than you. Ex: your professor

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  • sorry @Mari-LouA, edited.
    – Milind R
    Dec 5, 2014 at 11:22
  • I'm not familiar with the greeting Respected Sir (or) Madam. I don't think I've ever come across this form of address, so I cannot upvote it but I will retract my downvote.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Dec 5, 2014 at 11:27
  • Most professors at least in UK or US would not expect their students to address them in this way. First name is common although you could use e.g. Prof Smith in writing.
    – Stuart F
    Aug 4, 2023 at 11:33
  • Not in Western English, it isn't. What you Posted seems to come from straight translation of one or more Asian languages… which translations, far from working in English, serve best to show why straight translation between languages is a forlorn hope. Aug 6, 2023 at 21:15

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