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How do you address a formal letter to a group of women - i.e. the equivalent of Dear Sirs, for women?

  • Ladies comes to mind; Dear Ladies or My Dear Ladies if you prefer. Traditional writing often used Dear Sir or Madam so Dear Madams is correct although I think people avoid it today after that famous speech from the play I am not a Madam! which played on the occasional usage of this word for a woman who runs a house of prostitution. You can address one specifically the rest as a group like Dear Mrs. Smith and your fellow sewing group members You can address the group: Dear Daughters of the American Revolution members. In what way are these women a group? – Brillig Jun 14 '17 at 14:44
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    I shudder at 'Dear Ladies' or 'Dear Madams', but if I had to choose to be included in one it would be the former. If I was one of the people to be included in the address I would prefer, as @Brillig suggests, the use of the group name or descriptor and failing that, 'Dear all'. – Spagirl Jun 14 '17 at 14:53
  • I think it is traditional even in Anglophone contexts to resort to French on the rather rare occasions when pluralizing such ordinary courtesy titles becomes necessary; at least it is an option. The masculine plural Messieurs can be abbreviated Messrs.--an uncommon but available plural for the abbreviated English courtesy title Mr.--but I confess I know no such abbreviation for the feminine plural Mesdames (which carries no discernible implication of bawdry). – Brian Donovan Jun 14 '17 at 15:47
  • @BrianDonovan: though you are right, and you might write a letter to Mesdames Smith, Jones and Green, Dear Mesdames is not workable. – TimLymington Jun 14 '17 at 16:52
  • @YosefBaskin - I don't like "Attention." It gives me the same feeling as an email message in all caps. Normally, "Attention: Mary Sue" would go on a fax or an envelope, if you are sending a letter to an office or department, and you want the letter to land directly on Mary Sue's desk. – aparente001 Jun 16 '17 at 1:46
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If the group has a function or better yet a name, use it. Such as Dear league of women voters or Dear members of {name of group}.

  • I don't think "Dear League of Women Voters" works well in a formal letter. – aparente001 Jun 16 '17 at 1:44
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I see no reason to specify gender, and would suggest, in the case that you don't know the people you are writing to:

Dear friends:

In the U.S. I don't think it would feel too informal to address letters this way, unless it were a legal matter or there were a contentious, adversarial tone to the communication.

However, if "Dear friends" does feel too informal for you, here are some alternatives:

Mesdames:

or

Good morning [afternoon],

This is a nice trick with a formal group email, and I don't see why it wouldn't work in a business letter format.

Now, since Dear sir or madam is technically addressed to a single person, but it works for a group, you could follow that pattern, and address your letter to a single female person:

Dear madam:

Which follows the old-fashioned pattern of

Dear sir:

These would only be used if you don't have a name to address the letter to.

If you need to address a letter to a clearly defined group, there are already Q&As about that here; let me know if you want me to hunt one down.

  • Friends for a formal letter? And if you didn't know them personally? Dear All, is neutral and less intimate in my opinion. – Mari-Lou A Jun 15 '17 at 9:41
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    @Mari-LouA - I expanded the answer. // My personal opinion about "Dear all" is that it's acceptable but more informal a style. – aparente001 Jun 15 '17 at 14:35
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I think "Dear Madams" is still fine (it's akin to "sirs"). If they are colleagues of yours, I've seen people begin with "Dear colleagues," or "Colleagues,".

protected by Mari-Lou A Jan 26 '18 at 9:15

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