If You Use a Generic Salutation Stay with the Standards

Least effective of all is a generic salutation. However, there are times when it's the best solution. In standard business letters making a common request, for example, a generic salutation may be the most appropriate way to go.

Frank needed to request a replacement hose for his vacuum cleaner. "The vacuum cleaner company had announced that the hose was defective and customers could send for a free replacement. Starting the letter with 'To Whom It May Concern' was easy and effective."

The salutation "To Whom It May Concern" has been the standard for generations and is still appropriate. You can also use "Dear Sir or Madam." What you should avoid are old-fashioned salutations that are likely to alienate some of your readers. "Gentlemen," for example, or "Dear Sir" should be avoided, for obvious reasons.

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