Rockefeller Group Business Centers Blog

How to Address a Business Letter

Posted by Robert Blaker on Oct 13, 2015 10:00:00 AM

RGBC_How-Address-a-Business-Letter 

One of the most important, yet often overlooked, aspects of formal communication is how to address a business letter. To be clear, this is an article regarding the salutation—the person you are addressing—in a business letter, not the act of addressing the envelope. Knowing how to begin a business letter can be confusing if you are not familiar with the accepted conventions of written corporate communication.

“Dear… what should I call them?” Often, there is a moment in the preliminary stages of writing a business letter when people have to stop to ask themselves this question. Here are a few helpful guidelines on how to address a business letter.

Use a professional, polite salutation to precede your letter’s main content.

  • Dear Mr. Lastname:
  • Dear Mrs. Lastname: (if you know female recipient’s last name and that she is married)
  • Dear Ms. Lastname: (if you know female recipient’s last name and that she is unmarried, or if you are unaware of marital status)
  • Dear Dr. Lastname: (if known, professional titles such as Dr. are very appropriate, do not spell out the title)
  • Dear Sir or Madam: (if you are unaware of the recipient’s gender or name)
  • Dear Recruiter: (if name is unknown, the job title of your recipient is acceptable)

One of the most common mistakes made by those who don’t know how to address a business letter is the use of a comma after the salutation. In formal letters, one should always use a colon, rather than a comma.

Avoid using informal language in the body of your letter. This seems like common sense, but it can be hard for some people to adapt to writing in a manner appropriate for corporate communication. 

Even with written communication decreasing in the corporate culture, knowing how to address a business letter will help you when the situation arises. It can save you from appearing inappropriately informal or familiar in your communication. Of course as your familiarity and comfort with a business contact grows over time, the formality of your communication will evolve as well.

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