Business Letters / December 1, 2018 / Helga Bell
When in doubt don t risk embarrassment; phone the organization concerned and ask. Some people borrow an awful technique from email and use a person s whole name in the salutation e.g. "Dear Suzan St Maur." I don t know about you but this irritates the h*ll out of me and I would not recommend it. So when your letter is addressed to "Mr J C Jennings" your salutation is "Dear Mr Jennings." If the information you have is simply "Joanna C Jennings" you can probably take a chance and write a salutation of "Dear Ms Jennings." I don t know many male Joannas but don t count on it... Writing business letters is a skill that a person should have since it involves creating formal correspondences concerning your company product or service.
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.
They have a deep mistrust of email and for good reason as its confidentiality can never be guaranteed. Business letters are at least fairly private - you have to assume it s easier and faster to snoop on email than it is to steam envelopes open over boiling water. In other instances too printed letters provide a more tamper-proof formal record of business arrangements complaints employee warnings/terminations and other issues that need to be carved into tablets of stone. (Well paper anyway.) Old fashioned structure modern style Highlighted and ridiculed by the casual nature of email the quaint formality of the old fashioned business letter seems positively Dickensian and totally inappropriate for the way we do business now.