Dear Sir/Madam when I know the name but don't know the sex?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by alassea, May 8, 2012.

  1. alassea Member


    I've been reading threads on "Dear Sir/Madam and letter openings but I couldn't find my problem solved in any of them.
    The background:
    I "expressed interest" in the position of an au pair/groom in Ireland which was advertised at That's how that website works: if neither you nor the person who put the advertisement have Premium Membership the applicants can only send a default message saying that they "express interest", but there are none of your contact details in the message. The prospective employer can write them back and the employer sent me a message that he/she is interested in me applying and put his/her email address. He/she signed it "Pat xxx" And here comes my problem. How am I supposed to begin the covering letter if I don't know whether this Pat is a man or a woman?
    Dear Sir/Madam - sounds strange since I know the name.
    Dear Pat xxx - too informal I guess.
    Dear Mr/Ms xxx? Is such a construction possible?
    To whom it may concern - sounds too impersonal

    I'll be most grateful for some help, because I don't want to spoil my application at the very beginning;)
  2. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    Pat is being most unfair. An internet search might bring up something.

    That having been said, I would favour, "Dear Pat" as they have volunteered their forename.
  3. idoxobi New Member

    Hi, I don't see how solve the male/female distinction issue without an evident template use.
    But another approach widely used in my country (Colombia) is Mr(s) xxx.
  4. alassea Member

    In what way?
    But they said the surname too, so it would be rather rude, wouldn't it?
    I like this one :D Thank you!
  5. Miss Julie

    Miss Julie Senior Member

    Chicago metro area
    I agree. In the absence of a first name, I see nothing wrong with "Dear Sir or Madam."
  6. Miss Julie

    Miss Julie Senior Member

    Chicago metro area
    Mr. or Mrs. works only when there's a last name (surname). "Dear Mr. or Mrs. Pat" would be weird.
  7. alassea Member

    But they did tell the surname, I wrote it as "xxx" because I didn't want to put their details here. So if I have the surname, it's ok to write "Dear Mr or Mrs Xxx - if I understand correctly?
  8. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    They must know that "Pat" can be male or female; they canot have gone through life this far without knowing that. Yet, Pat still puts the person who replies into an awkward position. I don't think Pat is being reasonable.
    I don't think so. If I sign Paul Quinton, then either Paul or Mr Quinton will do. If I sign "Mr P. Quinton" Mr Quinton is correct.
  9. Miss Julie

    Miss Julie Senior Member

    Chicago metro area
    Oops--I missed that. "Dear Mr or Mrs XXX" would be fine with me. If Pat didn't want to indicate whether it means Patrick or Patricia, that's not your fault. :eek:
  10. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    I would say "Dear Pat" if that's the way the message to you is signed.

    You can include a short line saying "Please forgive the familiarity," but I don't know whether to call you Mr. or Mrs..... (If that person is so uptight as not to appreciate it, you might not want to work there :))

    For what it's worth, the American TV Comedy Saturday Night Live once had a series of comedy skits involving a character named "Pat" costumed so that it was impossible to determine the gender. The comedy involved others trying to figure out the gender.
  11. alassea Member

    Just Dear Pat? Even if I'm applying for a job? On the other hand, this Pat's message was rather informal but I can't imagine writing an informal application as my response. Or is it customary to write informally when you're applying for a job like au pair? After all, it's not a business manager position.
    Thanks for your input, Paul.
  12. alassea Member

    Good one :D
    But if I start with "Dear Pat" should I go on formally or informally?
  13. LilianaB Banned

    US New York
    You could either refer to the person as: Dear Pat, Dear Sir/Madam. This is about it, in your context. Dear Ms(r) would not work at all, in my opinion. People just do not use that, at least in the US. It is OK, to call the person Pat in English. It is not getting too familiar with them, if you don't know their last name, especially. It may not be appropriate in other languages, like Polish.

    You could also write Attention: Pat, and then Dear Sir/Madam underneath.
    Last edited: May 8, 2012
  14. alassea Member

    I guess this is my problem, in Polish "dear Pat" in this context sounds entirely out of place.
  15. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    All the better - Pat is happy to be called Pat.
    Imagine it!
    Yes. You are to become a temporary member of the family
    Business managers and stable-girls both shovel sh*t. :D
  16. alassea Member

    Heheh :p Ok, so I'm off to deformalize my letter :D
  17. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    We writers have long faced this problem when wishing to address an editor to propose an article and the masthead lists the editor only as Pat ______ or Lee ______ or any one of a number of other first names (forenames in the UK) that may be of either sex. "Dear Pat" or "Dear Lee" is really too familiar with someone you've never met. The solution at which we have arrived: USE BOTH NAMES. Address your response to Dear Pat Surname.
  18. alassea Member

    thank you! :)
  19. LilianaB Banned

    US New York
    Hi, Parla. I think Allasea does not know the last name of the person: this is the problem. Did you mean to replace the real surname with the word Surname?
  20. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Allasea does know the surname (see post 7).

    Parla's suggestion might work (although personally I don't like being addressed as <given name> + <surname>). I think it is also possible to assume one or the other (ie write 'Dear Mr X' or 'Dear Mrs X'), and then add a note to say that you have made the assumption and apologise if the assumption is wrong. I think 'Dear Sir/Madam' sounds too stuffy when you've been in touch.
  21. LilianaB Banned

    US New York
    I am sorry. My impression was that she did not know the last name based on post #1. I did not reread the whole thread. Thank you.

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