I want to send a letter to a company (specifically Microsoft). I've read some things that say one should write "To whom it may concern". I really don't like this; it sounds pretentious. Other sources suggest writing "Dear Sirs" or "Dear Sir or Madam". I don't care for either of these because in the former case a woman could be reading the letter, and in the latter case my letter could be read by multiple people. "Dear Sirs or Madams" sounds ridiculous. "Dear Microsoft" is obviously laughable (and I'm very apposed to corporate person-hood, hah!).

I've never particularly cared for "Dear" as the beginning to a letter myself. I don't even know who I'm writing to. But what options do I have other than "Dear"?

What should I do?

  • After trying on writersSE and supporting ELL area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/41665/… – Kris Nov 2 '12 at 5:00
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    I don't understand what you want me to do. Would you like me to take this question somewhere else, or are you suggesting that I have yet again broken one of Stack Exchange's numerous and difficult to follow rules? – Void Star Nov 2 '12 at 5:18
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    You can either change your idea of what is and isn't pretentious in a letter to an anonymous recipient at MS ("To whom it may concern" is a standard idiom and not pretentious at all), do some research and figure out who at MS should receive the letter and address it to that person (or even just the job title: "Dear CIO:") specifically, or get someone else to write it for you. – user21497 Nov 2 '12 at 5:21
  • You might want to: Search ELU for existing answers on the same lines (I think there are at least some); Read the FAQ to know if your question fits ELU (I don't think so); Try to ask on writers.stackexchange.com first because this is about letter-writing. Also visit and support ELL which handles comparatively simple questions such as this. Hope that helps. – Kris Nov 2 '12 at 5:21
  • @BigE: StackExchange is a community where questions are supposed to stay on-topic, and members are supposed to help maintain a high level of contribution quality, which is done through upvoting, downvoting, editing, closing, & deleting. As for "difficult to follow," the rules might seem like a tricky minefield for a newcomer, but it really boils down to (a) stay on topic, and (b) don't submit unresearched junk. If that puts you off, I suggest Yahoo! Answers, which won't judge anyone for posting a question without: doing research first, sharing that research, or proofreading before submitting. – J.R. Nov 2 '12 at 11:14

Here is how it works if the intended recipient is unknown.

If the gender is unknown, use:

Dear Sir/Madam, Dear Sir or Madam, Dear Madam or Sir; Dear Sirs

If the recipient is male:

Dear Sir


Dear Madam,

If you want to exclude gender altogether from your letter, then use:

To Whom It May Concern

That said, the important thing is what you write. Nobody is going to care much about what kind of salutation you use.

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    Thanks. I think I'll use "Dear Sir or Madam". Maybe you're right. The salutation shouldn't matter, but when I'm reading letters it usually seems awkward, and first impressions make a difference. Maybe it's because we all insist on starting with "Dear" like FumbleFingers says, but the salutation almost never functions as I feel it ought to. – Void Star Nov 2 '12 at 5:57

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