How to Address a Business Letter

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In a previous article we were explaining how to write a business letter, showing you the steps you have to go through. Format, expression, language, content, grammar, forms of address and all other aspects are just as important when you write a business letter. There is a lot hanging in a letter like this because the content usually has to do with measures that have to be taken, with valuable information being passed from person to person, with important business deals and transactions that can affect other people or the businesses themselves. That is why you have to pay close attention to every little detail and know when to censor yourself and when to include additional information.

To help you with one of the aspects which is as complex as it is short, we are going to show you how to address a business letter. One might think that this is the easiest part of the letter, but like with everything else, there are nuances you have to take into account. To begin with, determine whether you’re addressing the letter to a man, to a woman, to a board of directors or to the company in general. There are many formulas that you can employ when you learn how to address a business letter, but you need to use your intuition and several other factors to know which formula is the most appropriate.

  • To a woman – Addressing your letter to a woman means you have to use a special set of formulas, and you have to take your relations to the person into consideration. First of all you have to think about her title, whether she is a Doctor, whether she is married or not, whether she is a professor, or who knows, the happy recipient of a royal title, such as “Lady”, “Countess”, “Baroness” and so on. For example, you can address your letter in one of the following examples: “Dear Mrs. Smith”, “Dear Dr. Smith”, “Dear Lady Smith” or “Dear Ms. Smith” if she is not married. People, and especially women seem to care about details like this, so you don’t want to give the wrong impression just because you weren’t paying much attention. If the woman you are addressing is working in a company, find out what her title is, so you can include it at the top of the page, before the actual letter begins, and on the envelope. You also need to check and double-check that you are spelling her name correctly, especially if you don’t know her personally. A very formal letter towards a doctor could also begin with “Mrs. Smith M.D.” or “Mary Smith D.O.”; if she is a pastor or reverend, address her thus: “Reverend Mary Smith” or “Pastor Mary Smith”.
  • To a man – Addressing a letter to a man is fairly simpler and less complicated; generally, you have to respect the same rules as before. Make sure you know how to spell the recipient’s name correctly – this will not only avoid confusion, but it will avoid your making a bad impression on the person you’re writing to. Find out whether they have a royal or business title and include it in the salutation, such as “Dear Mr. Smith” or “Dear Sir Smith”. If you actually have the honor of writing to royalty, your letter should begin with “Your Royal Highness”, “Your Grace”, “Your Majesty”. This however is very unlikely, so let’s skip to another category.
  • To multiple persons – If you are addressing your letter to a group of people you don’t know, such as a board of directors, or to a company or firm in general, you should start thus: “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Respected Organization”. If you don’t know whether a man or a woman will read your letter, you can say “Dear Sir/Madam” or “Dear Madam/Sir”. When you write a letter to multiple specific persons whose names you know, you can simply list them after the ‘dear’ formula: “Dear Mr. Jones, Mr. Smith and Mrs. Philips”, or writing their titles accordingly: “Dear Mr. Jones, Dr. Smith and Ms. Philips”.

We hope this information will be useful to you in future business transactions and dealings, and that it will help you achieve the status you are looking for without minor or major obstacles. If you pay a little attention to details like these and learn how to address a business letter properly, you can go a long way, and be much more appreciated in your work environment.

June 2017
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