Part 5 : How to address a letter?

In the previous section, we have discussed about addressing an envelope. Now we are going to discuss about addressing a letter.

Writing the proper salutation is crucial in professional, business and academic settings.

The first thing to remember is to avoid using “To whom it may concern” as a salutation. That salutation is typically considered a cop-out. It means you didn’t research enough to know who you’re writing to. The most important thing when writing a letter is to know your audience.

Depending on the nature of letter, the guidelines of proper form of address change.

  1. For a letter of a personal nature, using the addressee’s first name without a title or surname is acceptable as long as you and the recipient have an informal nature.  For example :  Dear Vani.
  2. If you and the addressee have a formal relationship, the writer should use the proper honorific and surname. For example : Dear Mr. Vagish.
  3. When addressing a woman, if the marital status is unknown, it is safer to use Ms. because it is appropriate regardless of marital status, so it is the preferred honorific. For example : Dear Ms. Vani.
  4. If you are unsure of gender of recipient, omit the honorific, and use the first name and surname. For example Dear Vani Parashar.
  5. If addressee has a special qualification, use that as honorific. If addressee has a doctorate, (PhD, MD) use Dr. as the honorific instead of Ms. or Mr. For example : Dear Dr. Vani.
  6. When addressing clergy members, use the title before the person’s surname. For example : Dear Father Vagish.
  7. Diplomats are addressed by their titles (Ambassador or Minister) and  also there are honorific are Mr. or Madam.
  8. Members of Academia are addressed by their titles. For example : Dear Professor Parashar or Dear Dean Parashar.
  9. When writing a formal letter, it is best to do some research into the company or organization to which you are writing. Find out as much as about the names and titles you will be addressing. That simple gesture indicates your knowledge of company or organization and makes you seem like a competent individual with whom they’d be more willing to form a working relationship with.
  10. If you don’t know the person’s name, use title and if you don’t know both you can use the job title: for example, Dear Recruiter. This isn’t the best method, of course, but at least t signals that you know approximately whom the best audience would be.
  11. If you are not aware of person’s job title, then Dear Sir or Madam works as a last resort.

Remember the more you know about the audience, the better your salutation will be and probably the body of your letter as well.

Part 4 : Addressing an Envelope

Part 6 : Writing an Effective Business Letter


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