Business Letters / December 1, 2018 / Loraine Cohen
When you write to a title the salutation is "Dear Sir " "Dear Madam " or if you want to play it safe "Dear Sir/Madam." When you write to an organization it s "Dear Sirs " Dear "Mesdames " or again if you want to play it safe (but labor the point) "Dear Sirs/Mesdames." Your sign off will be "Yours faithfully" (UK) or "Yours truly" (US and Canada.) Less formal letters This is where you have a name. And this is where you can get into hot water if you re not sure of the gender of the person. Someone called J C Jennings could be a Jack or a Joanna. Someone called Leslie Matthews could also be either (traditionally the female version of the name is spelled "Lesley" and the male "Leslie " but I know at least one lady Leslie.) Equally beware of unisex names like Jody Jo Bobbie Alex Rob Robin Carol (yes really ) Billie Chris Darryl Eddie Sam Jackie Nicky Frances (f) vs Francis (m) Freddie Gabrielle (f) vs Gabriel (m) Georgie Gerry/Jerry Charlie Nat Harry Jessie (f) vs Jesse (m) Stevie Mel Pat Ronnie Sacha Sandy etc. And that s before we get started on names from non English-language cultures. People these days usually don t advertise whether they re "Mr" or "Ms" or whatever.
There is an answer though. Use the formality of structure that makes the business letter the bullet-proof form of communication it has come to be. Combine that with the short straight-talking style of writing more common to emails and you have a good compromise. Let s start with the structure - or rather the etiquette which supplies the structure. There are variations between accepted etiquette used in the different English language markets. Here are the main British forms of address. I have also included the US/Canadian equivalents where I know them but I m afraid I m not aware of those used in Australia NZ or SA. Formal letters The addressee will either be a title e.g. "The Chief Executive Officer" or to an organization or company when you don t know to whom your letter should be addressed.
My two "writing help" websites receive well over two million visitors per year looking for information and templates to help them with their writing. With that many visitors I get a pretty accurate idea of exactly what people are looking for in the way of letter writing help. In fact a significant number of people arrive at my site based on the search phrase "business letter". Now at first glance the term "business letter" makes sense. But just wait a minute here! What exactly do they mean by "business letter"? Well it turns out that they re not sure. What it boils down to in many cases is that the person doing the search is involved in some kind of "business" (as owner or employee) and they need to write some kind of "letter" related to their business.