Use Specifics Within General Categories

If you're unable to find a narrow shared interest that applies to all readers, you'll need to select a broad category. Categories that are generic should be avoided. "Dear Friend," "Dear Donor," or "Dear Citizen," for example, are usually ineffective salutations. They're too broad to speak to an individual.

Hong-Thing, president of a parent-teacher organization said, "I wanted to send a letter home with all of the children asking their parents to attend a potluck supper where we'll be able to discuss the city council's proposed cutbacks in an informal atmosphere. I considered addressing the letters to 'Dear Parent' but thought I could do better. Instead of 'Dear Parent,' I selected 'Dear Concerned Parent.' My thinking was that it would speak more forcefully to those parents who were con-cerned—that is, most parents."

"Dear Concerned Parent" is not ideal. It would be better to address each parent by name. But that's not realistic. Hong-Thing is a volunteer, and taking the time to address each letter individually isn't possible. Nor does she think it's necessary. "My letter is informational. I can't imagine that a parent would be more likely to read the invitation or respond because it began with an individual name."

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