I have offered to provide a written reference for a friend of mine who is applying for a new job. I have been given an email address to send the completed reference form to, which is a personal email address (somebodys.name@companyname.com) as opposed to a generic corporate address (references@companyname.com). Neither of us are sure what sex the person is as the name is unisex and neither of us have spoken to this person directly.

Based on this post I thought the best way to address the email would be Dear Sir or Madam, however after reading the email back I felt it could be taken offensively.

Should I go with something less risky like To whom it may concern or am I overthinking the issue? I just felt Sir or Madam was a more appropriate address.

  • 4
    You could just say Dear Firstname Lastname. I suspect people with unisex names are quite used to this mode of address. – Peter Shor Feb 15 '16 at 23:00
  • 1
    @PeterShor Yes, that is a form which is often used - not just for circumstances where the person's gender is not known, but where their correct title is in doubt. But what we must prepare for is the next great social revolution, when it is deemed not pertinent to need to know a person's gender at all. I am increasingly hearing this view expressed. – WS2 Feb 15 '16 at 23:21
  • 1
    @WS2 - Of course, if you don't know them, how do you know they're "dear"? (Maybe one should use a synonym of "dear": beloved, precious, darling, expensive, exorbitant, extortionate.) – Hot Licks Feb 15 '16 at 23:26
  • 1
    As a last resort you could always write: "Dear <person whose title and/or sex I was unable to deduce>" – Born2Smile Feb 16 '16 at 1:40
  • In the US, where pride in our political correctness is matched only by our collective social and linguistic ineptitude, one sees "Dear Btzlftlk" replaced increasingly by "Hi," "Hey," and - worst - "So - ". There is always "Good morning." – Rob_Ster Feb 16 '16 at 3:58

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.