When to use to whom it may concern? What to capitalize in ‘To Whom It May Concern’? What are common email openers? Should sir be capitalized? 

Whether it’s an email or a hand-written letter, an appropriate salutation is essential when writing to someone. It helps indicate the intimacy level between writers and recipients. The greeting also decides how formal the letter is.

“To Whom It May Concern” is an archaic letter salutation. This letter opener is formal and is used if there isn’t a specific recipient. We often used it for correspondence in business or academic correspondence. Nowadays, it has been outdated, and many suggest avoiding using it in emails. This change is due to the internet’s outburst, which lets everyone easily access the database of their company of interest.

Is It Okay To Use "To Whom It May Concern"

Many suggest avoiding using “To Whom It May Concern” in emailsSource: Austin Distel

When “To Whom It May Concern” is acceptable

Sometimes, the recipient’s identity is genuinely impossible to figure out. Then, it is appropriate to use this salutation. Here’s a list of some scenarios that can be considered agreeable:

An Introductory Letter

It’s safe to start the conversation in an introductory letter with “To Whom It May Concern”, given that the sender has no specific title to whom to receive the letter. Perhaps this letter is to reply to a request regarding their business from another company representative with generic contact information. Just don’t forget to ask for the recipient’s name to use in future conversations.

A Recommendation Letter

It is perfectly fine to use the phrase “To Whom It May Concern” because we often send a recommendation letter to more than just one recruiter.

A Complaining Letter To A Company

Frequently, complainants have no intention to indicate a specific individual that will receive the letter. Their most concern is that their problem will be noticed and addressed.

A Letter Sending To A Big Organization

This way of opening the letter is only suitable if the organization has a complex system. So, there’s no possible way to predict who will review the letter out of many possible contact points.

A Letter Sending To A Big Organization

You can use “To Whom It May Concern” in a letter sending to a big organizationSource: Thomas P. Röthlisberger

The Right Way To Use “Capitalize To Whom It May Concern” In Your Letter

Capitalize To Whom It May Concern  

What do you capitalize in ‘To Whom It May Concern’? Just capitalize the whole term just like a person’s name. You need to write every first letter of each word in the phrase in capital letters.

Use The Right Format Following This Term

  • Put a colon after instead of a comma after the salutation.
  • Double space before the beginning of the letter’s first paragraph. 

While having formal business correspondence, proper formatting techniques will be a plus, hinting that the one who wrote it is a dedicated and meticulous individual.

When “To Whom It May Concern” Is Not Appropriate

As mentioned, “To Whom It May Concern” is archaic. If not used with consideration, it can give the first impression of a lazy, outdated person. Therefore, whenever possible, senders should avoid overusing it.

To be more specific, “To Whom It May Concern” should not be used if you can detect the recipient’s identity. Their name might be in the organization’s LinkedIn profile or other online databases. If not, ask the HR rep or even call the receptionist for the correct word use. It’s worth taking the extra mile to impress the mail receiver. 

Care about creating impressive and professional kinds of letters? Try reading our free guide on Thank you letter.

“To Whom It May Concern” Alternatives

What if it’s absolutely impossible to figure out any contact’s name? Then there are still other options to try.

Dear [the recipient’s job title]

Examples: Dear Hiring Manager/Dear Customer Service Manager/Dear Search Committee,

Suppose you’re pretty sure about the recipient’s job title. In that case, this is a great way to address a letter without knowing the recipient’s name. It is better than “To Whom It May Concern,” which seems much more distant.

Dear [The Department That Receives The Letter]

Examples:

  • Dear Recruiting Department
  • Dear Customer Service Department

Suppose the recipient here isn’t a single individual but a whole Department of an organization. In that case, this salutation is an appropriate alternative. It’s respectful and is a failsafe way to go if senders can’t target a specific person in the Department that will review the letter.

Dear Sir,

Even though laced with the recipient’s gender assumption, this greeting is respectful, given that their name is unknown. If you’re wondering, “should sir be capitalized”, then the answer is a hard “Yes”; and the very same goes to “Dear Madam”.

Greetings,

Perhaps this salutation is a bit archaic, but it can go well with formal and casual contexts. Moreover, “Greetings” can address an individual or even a large number of people. Nevertheless, it is not appropriate to begin a cover letter. Keep in mind that this opening makes a reader think that the letter’s content presents some information, perhaps an invitation to an event or an introduction about a potential business partner. Therefore, a letter opener with “Greetings” shouldn’t contain too many questions for its recipient.

Informal Alternatives

Examples:

  • Hello
  • Good day/Good morning/Good afternoon

If the letter reaches out to several people, why not start with a simple “hello.” However, this salutation is more casual than the other alternatives. We should avoid using these informal openings in cover letters or other formal correspondence.

Hello text

We should avoid using informal openings in formal lettersSource: Bekky Bekks

Our Final Words

With the listed alternatives for the phrase “To Whom It May Concern,” senders should find one that can serve their writing purposes well. Even so, in most circumstances, spending some effort to find the contact’s name is always the best way to show respect, interest, and dedication. Visit Career Advice and Job Application for free, professional advice exclusively on JobandEdu

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By Emmanuel Davies

Emmanuel Davies has dedicated the most part of his career to education. In early 2020, he joined JobandEdu as a career advisor writer, where he writes about career overview, job advice, workplace culture. Previously, Davies worked as the Educational and Career Advisor at various institutions and organizations. Hence, he desires to share his experience and advice to everyone through writing.

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