How to Start a Letter without Dear Sir or Madam Effectively

Updated August 19, 2023

While some may still default to starting a cover letter, inquiry letter, sales proposal, or other formal business communication with Dear Sir or Madam, this is generally considered an outdated way to address someone you don't yet know. Fortunately, there are various alternatives to properly and politely greet someone in e-mails and letters. Learning about these alternatives can help you ensure your correspondence is professional and respectful.

In this article, we discuss how to start a letter without Dear Sir or Madam, explain why using an alternative is better, give you a list of other greetings you can consider using, and offer tips you can use to enhance your letters and e-mails.

How to start a letter without "Dear Sir or Madam"

If you want to know how to start a letter without Dear Sir or Madam, follow these steps:

1. Use the recipient's name or job title

One way to start a letter without using Dear Sir or Madam is to address the recipient by their name or job title. Deciding between their first or last name or both depends on your relationship and the content of the letter. For example, if it's an informal e-mail to a colleague you work closely with, you may just write Dear Amanda. If it's a formal e-mail to a manager on another team, you may write Dear Mr. Johnson.

If you don't know the recipient's name, you can use their job title instead. For example, when addressing your cover letter to apply for a job, you may not know who's going to receive the document, so you can just include the greeting Dear hiring manager instead.

Related: How to Start a Letter, with Tips and Examples

2. Address the department or company name

If you're unsure about the recipient's name and job title, you can address the company or specific department. Addressing your letter to the entire company is a good option when it's a small company, as the recipient can easily send it to the correct person. If it's a larger company, the recipient may not know who to send the letter to, so it can get lost. In this case, addressing the letter to a specific department may be a better option. For example, if you want to get in contact with a company's marketing department to discuss an advertising opportunity, you may include the greeting, Dear marketing department.

Related: How to Address a Business Letter Professionally

3. Choose a different greeting

There are many alternative greetings you can use in a professional setting other than Dear. For example, Hello, To whom it may concern, or Good morning. Choose a greeting that suits your relationship with the recipient and the tone of the letter.

Related: How to Address a Cover Letter (With Examples)

Why using "Dear Sir or Madam" isn't the best option

Using Dear Sir or Madam has generally become an outdated practice, as its vagueness can create unnecessary distance or too much formality between you and the recipient. With proper research, you can often learn who may be reading your e-mail, which allows you to address them directly and make a real impact. This shows the recipient you took the time to research more about them, personalizing the e-mail instead of making it seem like you're sending e-mails in bulk.

Related: Who to Address a Cover Letter to (With Templates and Examples)

Alternatives to "Dear Sir or Madam"

There are many alternatives to using Dear Sir or Madam. Many can be less formal and more personalized but still polite and appropriate. Here are some options to consider applying for your future correspondences:

  • Dear hiring manager: Consider using this opener instead of Dear Sir or Madam when writing an e-mail to a hiring manager if you're unsure of their name. You can also use this greeting in a follow-up note about an application or when including your cover letter in an application.

  • Dear recruiting team: You might use this greeting along with your cover letter when applying to a larger company if you know you're working with a bigger recruiting team.

  • Dear recruiter: This greeting can work for a cover letter, an application, or a follow-up e-mail to a recruiter if you don't know their name.

  • Dear [insert role]: You can also address an e-mail to a person's title, for example, Dear brand manager, if you're unsure of their name.

  • Dear [recipient's name]: If you have your recipient's name available, address the e-mail to them directly to personalize it. For example, if you're sending a thank-you note to a hiring manager who's set up an interview, you can now address them personally.

  • Hello [company name] team: This greeting may work as a casual note to a team at a neighbouring office or a team you're contacting for more information. For example, Hello Organix Berries team, I wanted to ask you about your new signage. Do you have a minute for a call?

  • Hello [department name]: This might be appropriate when sending an informal note to a department. For example, Hello Cloisters brand management department, I recently saw an open role for a coordinator within your division. Would you be able to give me some more information on this position?

  • Hello [company name]: You can use this greeting when sending an e-mail to a smaller company that has a more casual brand.

  • Dear [name of department] manager: You might address an e-mail to the department manager if you're inquiring about that department. You can even use this for a business e-mail regarding sales or other departmental concerns from an outside source.

  • Hello, I hope this e-mail finds you well: You can use this greeting for a less formal e-mail where you're writing to a group and not someone specifically, such as a team e-mail or to another department about an unofficial matter.

  • To whom this may concern: If you don't have any information about the recipient of your letter, you may use the greeting, To whom this may concern. This makes your letter impersonal, but it can be a good option for formal letters.

  • Hi or hello there: For more informal correspondences, when you don't know the recipient's name, you may simply use hi or hello there! This starts your letter on a positive note to help engage the recipient.

  • Good morning or good afternoon: You may use these greetings for formal or informal correspondences to greet recipients and wish them a pleasant day. If you know the recipient's name, you can attach it to the end of this greeting. For example, Good afternoon, Mr. Smith or Good morning, Anne.

Related: How to Write Salutations (With Examples)

Tips for starting a professional letter

If you want to enhance your professional letters and e-mails, here are some tips to consider:

  • Proofread the letter. When you complete your letter, ensure you proofread it to find and eliminate errors and omissions. This ensures your letter is professional, helping you make a good impression on the recipient.

  • Double-check the spelling of the recipient's name. If you're including the recipient's name in your letter or e-mail, ensure it's spelled properly. Spelling it correctly shows the recipient you respect them and have good attention to detail.

  • Avoid using a title if you don't know the recipient's gender. Avoid using titles like Mr., Mrs., or Miss if you don't know the gender of the recipient, as it can be presumptuous. Instead, try using the recipient's full name.

  • Use simple formatting. To ensure you don't distract from the content of your letter or e-mail, try to use simple formatting. Choose a black, easy-to-read font and minimize bolding or italicizing information, so it's easy to skim.

  • Use personal pronouns in your letter. Throughout the letter, use personal pronouns like I, we, or you if it's appropriate to help you create a friendly tone. This can improve the chance of the recipient considering your letter and help you form a relationship with them.


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