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I wondered if there might be another word to use besides 'Dear' in a formal letter for business purposes. Many of the letters that I write to address people concerning social, economic, business or political issues require some polite form of address. However, 'Dear' seems a bit too affectionate to me when I might dislike the person actually.

I know that English is influenced greatly by many foreign languages including German, French, Italian, Gaelic, Danish, Swedish, Latin, Greek, Spanish and various other languages to a lesser degree such as the various Amerindian, Indian, and African languages.

Surely one of these languages has a formal term of address that is one word though it lacks any connotation of affection?

Any suggestions?

  • I almost always skip the "dear" or equivalent altogether. That is, instead of "Dear X," I simply write "X,". I'm a white collar worker in corporate America, and my experience is that "Dear" is almost never used, and when it is, at best it's taken as stilted and out of place, and at worst as outright sycophantic. [This is all in the context of American b2b communication, both internal and external, but I can't speak for b2c communication or BrE or other non-AmE norms.] – Dan Bron Dec 19 '17 at 1:46
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    It's a social convention, so you might as well stick to it, although in India, you might start with Respected Sir.. – Mick Dec 19 '17 at 1:51
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    In contrast to Dan's comment, I can say I have never received a 'formal letter for business purposes' which did not start with 'Dear' - either 'Dear Sir', Dear Peter, or Dear Mr G. - This is BrE. The perception of an affectionate tone is . . well, 'Dear Sir, Unless . . . ' as a starter to a most unsettling communication is a bit of a cliché, so I guess, just that - a perception. Emails are a very different matter; no solid convention seems to have crystallised yet. – peterG Dec 19 '17 at 1:52
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    In a formal business letter, using Dear xxxx is a formula; it doesn't have any value/denotion/connotation of affection associated with it. – AmE speaker Dec 19 '17 at 1:57
  • thesaurus.com/browse/dear – Hot Licks Dec 19 '17 at 3:21
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You could use "good morning," "good day," or "Merry Christmas" (depending on the setting). "Greetings," "salutations," and "hello" might also work. "Dear" seems to be the best and most formal, however.

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