I need to write a letter to a specific person, who I only know by title. I do not know their name or gender.

I can think of a couple ways to greet this individual in a letter, however I can not decide which greeting is most preferable.

Should I start my letter with:

Dear Sir or Madam,

...or

Dear Manager of Standards,

...or some other greeting.

  • 4
    Both sound equally acceptable. I don't feel equipped to say anything more than that Dear Sir or Madam is a standard, and you can't go terribly wrong using it, and that I've seen Dear [title] a lot too. – Daniel Sep 28 '11 at 20:05
up vote 2 down vote accepted

I would put the title as the first line of the address.

But if I don't know their name I would always start a letter with the standard Dear Sir or Madam. (If you know their name, use Dear Mr. Smith.)

  • I have also seen: Dear Sir/Madam – GEdgar Sep 29 '11 at 15:00
  • "Dear Sir or Madam" and "Dear Sir/Madam" are binarist and therefore problematic. Not everyone is comfortable being called "Sir" or "Madam". – sampablokuper Jul 4 '17 at 9:08

I came across this page while searching for a gender-neutral salutation. The problem with Dear Sir or Madam is that it is gender binary and excludes anyone who may not identify as specifically male or female.

Some websites that address this question are: http://practicalandrogyny.com/category/language/salutations/

While I was looking for something that would replace "Dear Sir or Madam", I thought that this page was interesting.

Having found nothing to answer my question, I have decided to go with: Dear (job title); i.e. Dear Manager or Dear Admissions Officer or Dear Reader (if I don't know what the title is).

  • In some situations, I find "to whom it may concern" handy. – shaunakde Jul 10 at 16:57

I think either would be acceptable, but addressing the person by his/her title is a little more specific and evidence that you've put some thought into it. If you have any way to find out the specific name -- for example, by exploring the company's website or calling and talking to the receptionist -- it would probably earn you a few points by making your letter look less generic. Receptionists are used to answering questions like that. Good luck!

  • Everything except using the title is good advice. I'm sorry but being addressed in such a way just feels "spammy" to me. Your advice on showing initiative and trying to find the manager's name is great. Don't forget LinkedIn as a resource. – Wudang Jan 30 '17 at 16:12

You can always write, "Dear Reader".

  • 2
    That would not be appropriate for a formal letter. – Chenmunka Apr 29 '14 at 17:46

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