“Dear Sirs”? In 2021? Nope. Here are the alternatives.

A client of mine got very cross today. Not with me, thank goodness… But because her firm traditionally addresses its own clients as “Dear Sirs”.

Even when they are female or when they have not specified a preferred gender.

In 2021, this won’t do.

My client said, and she’s right: “People work with people, not with systems.”

So here are the best practices you need to know, to avoid this problem in your organisation.

When it comes to the SALUTATION part…

Best practice, globally, is:

Dear Mr Smith
formal

Dear Ms Smith
formal

Dear Mel (first name only, if no gender is specified or less formality is appropriate, as it usually is in South Africa)
less formal

Good day (works well generically for those we might previously have addressed as “Dear Sirs” / “Dear Sir or Madam” / “To whom it may concern” in the old days)
mid-weight formality

Dear colleagues or Dear Colleagues
mid-weight formality; internal use

Dear team or Dear Team
mid-weight formality; internal use

Hi there
informal

Hi everyone
informal; internal use

When it comes to the SIGN-OFF part…

The most formal options currently available are:

Yours sincerely

or

Sincerely

Please, please, please don’t use “Yours faithfully”. It died out with dial-up internet.

For mid-weight formality when it comes to sign-offs, use:

Regards

Kind regards

Warm regards

Many thanks

And if your organisation is suited to informal sign-offs, you can do whatever you like — as long as it isn’t cheesy. By cheesy I mean, “Yours in sales”, “Enthusiastically yours”, “Warm island wishes”, and similar hideosities.

On that note, Markman out. This isn’t an email so I can sign off however I want to.

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Tiffany Markman

Tiffany Markman

Copywriter. Teacher. Is all about profitable freelancing. Join her community: https://tiffanymarkman.activehosted.com/f/15