Using Sir and Mam — In Correspondence and Conversation
My question is about using Sir and Mam —
When writing a letter or message and I don’t know the name or gender of the person, do I write Dear Sir or Madame:? Or do I just write Dear Sir:?
–Allison, Madrid, Spain
When using Sir and Mam —
The politically correct greeting in an email or letter when you haven’t a clue as to the recipient’s gender — let alone their name — may not sound warm and friendly, but it certainly won’t offend anybody. Absolutely nobody would ever be displeased or insulted when you use: To Whom It May Concern
Otherwise, it is perfectly correct to use Dear Sir/Madame, when you don’t know the name of the recipient. Although every effort should be made to find out their name.
- Of course it is always much better to address the person by name: Dear Mr. Brown or Dear Ms. Greene. So if you are writing to the personnel director, for instance, discover his or her first and last name on the company website and address the email or letter to him or her. If her first name is Olivia and you don’t know if she likes to be addressed as Ms. or Mrs., use Ms.
- When you’re already familiar with the person, use their first name only, e.g. “Dear Vanessa.”
- When in doubt, follow how the person signed off in previous correspondence. But be careful to observe that even though his name appears as Robert J. Adams on his letterhead, he may have used Rob — and not Bob or Bobby — in the closing of a letter to you.
- Otherwise, opt for the formality of Mrs., Ms., or Mr. until you assertion what first name to use.
One last word about Sir and Mam:
- In conversation, when you don’t know the their first and last name you wouldn’t say, “Hey, boy” or “Hey, Miss,” you would say “Sir” or “Mam” to grab someone’s attention or express your appreciation.
- Sir and Mam are both general-purpose words of respect used in polite conversation when you don’t know the stranger’s name.
- You wouldn’t use the title Mr., Ms., or Mrs. unless the title is in conjunction with the person’s last name: Mr. Brown or Ms. Greene.
Don’t forget to:
- Use a subject line when possible.
- The tone of the sign-off, or closing, depends on the salvation. So if’ you’ve addressed the letter Dear Ms. Greene, then the sign-off is Sincerely yours, or Kindest regards.
- But if you’ve addressed the email to Dear Sir/Madame, then close with Yours faithfully, or Yours truly.
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Accepting A Compliment
Accepting A Compliment