Is using Dear Sirs still appropriate?
There has been increasing debate on whether using Dear Sirs is still appropriate greeting in written communication.
Whether composing or writing a letter or an email, you should consider your Relationship with the intended recipient or the person to whom you are writing. Your relationship with the recipient dictates the formality or informality of words used.
Questions you may want to ask are;
- Is the relationship professional or social
- How well is that relationship established?
- Have you written before or is the communication in question your first attempt to establish a business relationship?
- Are you writing to an individual or business that you have had no previous contact with?
That first written contact is a vital thing. It is often difficult to introduce yourself or your business. However, do not underestimate making that vital first professional impression from the outset.
For as long as I have been writing professional business correspondence, the first two words of that introductory letter have posed no problem or indeed warranted much, if any, consideration.
You do not know the name of an individual. You only know the name of the business or firm or organisation.
No name; no problem.
However late last year an international law firm, with offices throughout the world barred the use of “Dear Sirs.”
That law firm concerned instructed all of its lawyers to start such correspondence with “Dear Sir or Madam” in the United Kingdom or “Dear Ladies and Gentleman” in the United States.
The chief executive of the largest charity for women’s rights, in the united Kingdom, believes that the change was long overdue. Quite rightly she says that we have to think about the language we use as it reveals the assumptions and decisions being made.
Other law firms maintain that “Dear Sirs” is the “accepted standard”. One law firm’s spokesman (or should that be spokesperson?) commented that;
“It very much depends on who we’re writing to. If they are an individual then it depends on their gender and title. If it’s an organisation, then we currently use ‘Dear Sirs’ as that remains the accepted standard”.
For my part as a 30 year qualified lawyer, I will be sticking with that ‘accepted standard, but then again I am a male.
Ibsen Global can give you advice about the tone and language you should use in any business or legal communication.
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