Dear Sir/Madam vs To Whom It May Concern

uktous

Senior Member
cantonese
Hi,

Background:
I have read a number of thread about "to whom it may concern", but none of them is specific for job application cover letter.
Eg, http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=1533915


Question:
1) Should I use "Dear Sir / Madam" or "to whom it may concern" in a job application cover letter?
2) If both can be used, any difference between using them?

Thanks
 
  • djmc

    Senior Member
    English - United Kingdom
    If I were writing a letter of application to a job I would write "Dear Sir / Madam". I would write "to whom it may concern" if I were writing a pamphlet or circular to the effect that "next week the high street will be inaccessible because electricity cables are being laid". Both are fairly impersonal but the latter implies that the interests of the addressee have very little interest to the writer.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I'm not quite sure where I came to the following view:

    Dear Sir/Madam ... would be to one person only but whose identity is as yet unknown to the writer.
    To whom it may concern ... could be to more than one person, also unknown. djmc has an example where the writer doesn't care, but seems to be addressing a group of people. An open letter of recommendation might well begin with this salutation - for example, if you have a pupil or student whom you have trained and want to provide a reference they can take wherever they go to apply for a job, then Dear Sir/Madam would be inappropriate. Here, the recipients are multiple and unknown but the writer cares about them even if only in the sense that they are recommending someone to them.
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    For what it's worth, I would never use "To whom it may concern" -- and I would read such a document with mild annoyance. :)
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    It is rude to write Dear Sir/Madam if you know the name. I'd say it was unusual these days not to have been provided with the name of the person to whom you should send your application.

    Hermie
     

    Nucleara

    Senior Member
    It is rude to write Dear Sir/Madam if you know the name. I'd say it was unusual these days not to have been provided with the name of the person to whom you should send your application.

    Hermie

    So if I know the name of the person, I should start the letter with Dear+name even though in the case of application form ?

    Thanks:)
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    For what it's worth, I would never use "To whom it may concern" -- and I would read such a document with mild annoyance. :)

    I think context plays a role here.
    If I got a letter from some organization (such as a company I was having a dispute with) and it opened Dear Sir/Madam even when they know who I am, I would feel they were being deliberately insulting by sending a form letter without thought or care.
    If I was hiring a research assistant and a candidate showed me* a letter of recommendation from a Nobel Laureate which opened "To whom ... " I would not bat an eyelid, knowing that it was a letter likely to be read by many - and they would be the ones "concerned".

    In the context of the original question, however, for a job application, Dear Sir/Madam is fine.


    Edit: If I received a letter in the mail in that form, I would feel mildly annoyed too
     
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    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Hermione Golightly
    It is rude to write Dear Sir/Madam if you know the name. I'd say it was unusual these days not to have been provided with the name of the person to whom you should send your application.

    Hermie

    So if I know the name of the person, I should start the letter with Dear+name even though in the case of application form ?

    A form is not a letter. A letter always accompanies an application form. Such a letter is known as a "covering letter".
    If you have a named person to send the form to, your covering letter should certainly start with 'Dear Mr XXX ' or 'Dear Ms YYY', unless a woman has included the title 'Mrs' somewhere, for example under her signature.

    Is this what you wanted to know?

    :)
    Hermie
     

    kenny4528

    Senior Member
    Mandarin, Taiwan
    My former employer wrote a reference for me and used "To whom it may concerned". I think it's a pretty normal usage in this way, as JS said~
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    That "To Whom it May Concern" sort of referral letter used to be known as a testimonial. You were given it for general use as you wished.

    Hermie
     
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    Gundul

    Member
    English-UK
    Dear Sir/Madam: he slash has no place in English letter-writing. 'Dear Sir or Madam' is surely more appropriate.
     

    Annarazm

    New Member
    Persian/Farsi
    For recommendation letter from a referee for universities, do you think it is better to say "To Whom It May Concern" or Dear Sir or Madam?
    Thanks :)
     

    JustKate

    Senior Member
    I'm not sure what you mean by "a referee for universities" - do you perhaps mean referral?

    I think the general guidance in this thread is good: That you use "Dear Sir or Madam" when the letter is going to one person but you don't know who that person is, and you use "To Whom It May Concern" when you can reasonably assume that several different people will be reading the letter.
     

    Annarazm

    New Member
    Persian/Farsi
    Thanks for your reply. For application process, applicants are usually asked for recommendation letter from two references (I think the name is referee contacts in the application form). This recommendation letter is provided by a lecturer/professor and will send to administration team of the university. So as you said they can be several different people. Is it right? So as you said I think To Whom... would be better
     

    lapdwicks

    Senior Member
    Sinhala
    I think that having known who the person we write to is not required to decide whether to use Sir/ Madam. If we write to any institution we may probably know to what position or rank we have to address. Then we can use Dear Sir/ Madam to address the person in that particular post.

    If somebody writes a character certificate, he can't probably be certain that who is going to read that for it can be showed to many different people. Here he has to use the term "to whom it may concern".
     

    JoeEdge

    New Member
    English - Scotland
    I am seeking advice regarding what is the best way to start an email eg. when I am contacting a "ZXY" PR company that deals with a marketing of "ABC" company and no further information is given - just the e-mail address?
     

    lapdwicks

    Senior Member
    Sinhala
    I am seeking advice regarding what is the best way to start an email eg. when I am contacting a "ZXY" PR company that deals with a marketing of "ABC" company and no further information is given - just the e-mail address?

    Welcome to the forum,

    You can write many kind of e-mails to any company.
    What kind of purpose you are going to write for is essential to have an idea to decide which kind of start suits.

    So, you have to give further details about your requirement.

    e.g. To find a person, to apply for a post, to check the availability of some goods and services etc...
     
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    JoeEdge

    New Member
    English - Scotland
    Welcome to the forum,

    You can write many kind of e-mails to any company.
    What kind of purpose you are going to write for is essential to have an idea to decide which kind of start suits.

    So, you have to give further details about your requirement.

    e.g. To find a person, to apply for a post, to check the availability of some goods and services etc...

    Hi,

    I have read on this forum that "Dear Sir/Madam" or "Dear Sir or Madam" are not the best way to start your e-mail. Some users suggested using eg. "Dear Recruitment" etc. but I couldn't find information how to apply this to the situation I have described earlier:
    "when I am contacting a "ZXY" PR company that deals with a marketing of "ABC" company and no further information is given - just the e-mail address"

    Should I write "Dear ZXY"?

    Or maybe there is another way?
     

    lapdwicks

    Senior Member
    Sinhala
    You don't actually want to talk to any company itself but to a representative of it, according to your requirement. In the same way, even though you don't have any extra information, you cannot be unaware of your requirement for contacting that particular institution. (Otherwise you don't have to just address it without having anything to talk about :) - Dear Sir, Bye.).

    For instance, ...

    1. to discuss about any vacancies -> HR Manager
    2. to discuss about any purchase -> Marketing Manager
    3. to make a complaint about HR Manager -> General Manager or Managing Director etc.

    So, despite not knowing the name, you can just address the respective post. Otherwise you don't have to put any salutation for a company or institution. and can just start with the subject-line.

    Anyway, let's wait for others to comment on this.
     
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