Writing Style – Letters and Salutations

A BizWritingTip reader wrote: I am curious as to what salutation should be used on letters when you don’t know the name or gender of the person you’re writing to. Is “gentlemen” passe?

BizWritingTip response: Yes, “gentlemen” by itself is considered passé. You could address the letter to “Ladies and Gentlemen.” (Don’t use the word Dear.”)

However, this terminology is considered very formal. And some women in my workshops have told me they don’t like to be referred to as “Ladies” in the business world.

With a routine or informal letter when you do not know who will be receiving it, I recommend you drop the salutation line altogether and just lead with the subject line. This would be ideal if you were writing a letter that is going into a file.

Example

Re: Employment Reference for Tiger Woods

Another option would be to use a title, if you know it: Dear Human Resources Manager:

Naturally, the best way to get your documents read is to start with the person’s name.

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