Addressing and Ending: Formal Letters in the English language

How to start or end formal letter in English? How to address a person if you know the name or the title? Here are the tips adapted from Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary.

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Beginning and salutation in formal letters

If you are writing to someone whose name you do not know, especially in British English you can put:

Dear Sir
Dear Madam
Dear Sirs
Dear Sir / Madam
Dear Sir or Madam.

In American English this form is used, but not in British:

To whom it may concern.

If you are addressing to someone by name, use their title and surname.

Dear Dr Smith (BrE)
Dear Dr. Smith (AmE)

Note the usage of full stop after the title in the American English version.

Do not write full name and (or) the title:

Dear James Smith
Dear Dr. James Smith

Ending formal letters

In American English:

Sincerely
Sincerely Yours
Yours Truly

In British English:

If you have mentioned person’s name: Yours sincerely;
If you started the letter generically with Dear Sir / Madam, etc: Yours faithfully.

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Romeo Mlinar

Languagebits.com Author

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