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Using DEAR in business communication

You may be asking: Do I really have to use dear when writing business emails and letters?

My short answer is yes.

Sometimes people tell me that dear sounds too intimate, like they are writing to their grandmother.

Dear is a convention for business letters and emails. Using dear shows respect for the other person. It makes you sound polite, warm, human and nice.

The # 1 gold standard is:  “Dear Ms. Grosman,”

If you write me an email and start with the opening above, I will think this is a person who wants to have a professional relationship. I will respond accordingly.We probably work in a more traditional work environment. We might be at different stages in our careers or not know each other very well.

If we were out for lunch together, we would be at a fancy restaurant, having a business meeting, using our best table manners. We wouldn’t  talk about politics or religion.

Another common choice: “Dear Jessica,”

In this case, I will expect to know you personally: maybe we have done business before and get along well, maybe we used to be colleagues or maybe you are an acquaintance. This is what I use for internal communications as well.

This probably wouldn’t be the first time we went out to lunch together. We would probably go to a more casual restaurant and talk business as well as a bit about our personal lives. We would laugh and make jokes.

Using dear in business communication examples:

The most common choices

  1. Dear Mr. Jones, ( Dear + title + last name – #1 professional choice )
  2. Dear Ted, (Dear + first name – more casual)

When writing to several people:

  1. Dear all,

When you don’t know the persons name:

  1. Dear Sir or Madam: (Most formal) *note how they use a colon (:) instead of a comma (,). The colon is more formal and official.
  2. Dear Customer,
  3. Dear Claims Adjustor, (Dear + job title)
  4. Dear Hiring Committee (Dear + department/group)

What happens if you really don’t want to use dear in business communication?

The thing with conventions is that most of the time when someone follows the rules we don’t notice. It’s when someone does something out of the ordinary that we notice.

If you write:

“Ms. Grosman,”

I get the impression that our relationship is no-nonsense. It is kind of cold.

The lunch date metaphor: I wouldn’t want to sit next to you at lunch because you wouldn’t engage in any pleasant small talk. You would eat and leave.

So, think twice about not using dear in business communication. Please realize that you are going against normal business writing standards. Personally, I will be sticking to dear.

Not convinced yet? Check out these posts about the same topic: Lynn Gaertner at Better Business Writing or Syntaxis: Anatomy of An Email

P.S. Watch this video to learn why I use the title Ms. in this blog post.

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