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Dear Ms. Wilson and Messrs. Smith, Willians, Jones, and Davis,
September 14, 2012 7:14 PM   Subscribe

I need to address a formal letter to five recipients of different rank and gender at once. How?

The context is professional. The addressees are as follows:

Mr. John Smith, Director of Everything
Mr. Sam Jones, Manager
Mr. Steve Williams, Senior Manager
Mr. Bob Davis, Junior Position
Ms. Lisa Wilson, Junior Position

How do I do this? Help!
posted by Nameless to Writing & Language (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
If I had to do this in my job (academic), I would address the letter to the most senior person (Grand Exalted Pooh-Bah, Great Panjandrum, Lord of the Eastern Horizon, etc.), and cc everyone else in at the bottom.

Or I would write the letter as a memo, with recipients listed in decreasing order of rank.

Gender, in this case, shouldn't matter.

If you can't do either of those, then list their names and addresses at the top and address the letter to:

"Dear Mssrs. Smith, Williams, Jones, Davis, and Wilson" - or, if Wilson has the same rank & seniority as Davis, you could put her first if you want to follow the old rule that women should have precedence, other things being equal.

I wouldn't do this in academe, but that's in good part because I'd likely be doing it by email, not post.

I'm curious to find out what other, non-academic MeFites have to say.
posted by brianogilvie at 7:29 PM on September 14, 2012


Definitely go by rank. If two have the same rank, I alphabetize them by last name. If it matters, I am an academic.
posted by michellenoel at 7:35 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


or, if Wilson has the same rank & seniority as Davis, you could put her first if you want to follow the old rule that women should have precedence, other things being equal.

Miss Manners says not to do this in business contexts, because this is a feature of social etiquette and social etiquette follows different rules than business etiquette. So, rank and then alphabetize.
posted by cairdeas at 7:39 PM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Messrs." means "several people who use 'Mr.' as a title, so absolutely do NOT use that for a mixed-gender group.

"Dear Messrs. Harrison, Lennon, McCartney, and Starr, and Ms. Black" if you were writing to the Beatles and Cilla.

"Dear Mesdames Caffey, Carlisle, Shock, Valentine, and Wiedlin, and Mr. Springsteen" if you were writing to the Go Gos and the Boss.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:40 PM on September 14, 2012 [12 favorites]


So in your example, "Dear Messrs. Smith, Jones, Williams, and Davis, and Ms. Wilson" is correct.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:42 PM on September 14, 2012


Not sure if this is ridiculous but could you go with "Dear Sirs and Madam"? Might well be ludicrous and archaic but it is a suggestion.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:42 PM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Gentlepersons
posted by brujita at 7:43 PM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I guess I was thinking that if the letter begins (after the author's address and the date), with individual addressees (Mr. John Smith, Mr. Steve Williams, Mr. Sam Jones, Mr. Bob Davis, Ms. Lisa Wilson), then Mssrs. would be economical and inoffensive. However, I am coming from a milieu in which it's rare to write such a letter in the first place.
posted by brianogilvie at 7:53 PM on September 14, 2012


As a "Ms." I don't want to be called "Mr." pretty much ever, even in a group.

"Dear Research and Development Team" or "Dear Houston Branch Office" might be another way to do it, if the letter is inclusive of the whole team/department/division/workgroup/ whatever.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:03 PM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


My political impulse would be to address the letter to the most senior person and cc others. That's definitely my preference.

If you really want/need to put all their names, titles and addresses in two or three columsn then use a salutation like "Dear Colleagues" or "Dear Friends" (or Fiends, if you type like I do).

I think in the past I've also left the salutation off entirely to avoid this problem or written the letter to each individually, indicating as much in the body.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 8:30 PM on September 14, 2012


In these situations, I sometimes use "Dear all," which is decidedly less formal than others but is also safest. It forced an equality which may not exist while eliding over differences which might demand different addresses.
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:02 PM on September 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


"To Whom it Concerns"?
posted by windykites at 10:15 PM on September 14, 2012


The military/gov elides the often prickly issues of rank (and they are legion, what with government civilians, active-duty military, officers, enlisted, etc.) by using ALCON: (all concerned). It's not a terrible choice, but it'd probably raise eyebrows in your milieu.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 12:21 AM on September 15, 2012


If you have itemized all of the people in order of rank in the addressee block, you might use, "To all addressees," as your salutation. Much like military, except civilian. Fall back could be, "Good morning," which was preferred at Giant Law Firm with eleven partners and 386 juniors, plus assorted hosts of support personnel.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 3:22 AM on September 15, 2012


Simply list the addressees up top and use the salutation "Dear all".

"Messrs" is about five decades out of date and shouldn't be used unless you're corresponding with retired English colonels.
posted by dontjumplarry at 3:34 AM on September 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


When I write a business letter to a number of people in this situation, I don't use any salutation at all. Just start the letter. Usually, no one will even notice.
posted by yclipse at 4:38 AM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Personally, I would probably start with "Hello," and then use the valediction to establish the degree of obsequiousness.

I would also consider "Dear all", "Dear colleague" or "Dear <plural agent noun>" if they have something in common ('speakers' if it's a meeting, perhaps).

My experience is in academia, although unlike the previous respondents I would always go by strict alphabetical order when listing names, except perhaps for the big cheese.
posted by Talkie Toaster at 5:54 AM on September 15, 2012



Mr. John Smith, Director of Everything
Mr. Sam Jones, Manager
Mr. Steve Williams, Senior Manager
Mr. Bob Davis, Junior Position
Ms. Lisa Wilson, Junior Position


All on the top line, meaning full address blocks for each. You could do the greeting in several ways, by sex, for example: "Dear Ms. Wilson and Messers Smith, Jones, Williams and Davis:"

Shows chivalrous treatment and allows the use of 'Messers' to avoid saying Mr. again and again.

The other greeting could simply be "Greetings:" which I use when circumstances don't allow a regular greeting.

I write a lot of formal letters, so feel free to memail me with questions.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:49 AM on September 15, 2012


My political impulse would be to address the letter to the most senior person and cc others. That's definitely my preference.

It depends on the letter's function--I sometimes write what I call "double top line" or "tattling letters." Often I find that especially government agencies are violating the law in terms of my clients. And a letter to the Agency perpetrating the wrong won't do. So I write to someone powerful with a legitimate oversight role over them and include the person whose behavior I want to influence as a co-recipient. It works wonders. In business it might be frowned on, though, unless you were a customer.

The technique is to put somebody up there you know the target will have to answer to. So they give me what I want allowing the bad guy to say he's fixed the problem to my satisfaction when the big shot calls.

It works wonders, let me tell you. But you have to be in the right and be able to show it in the letter or it could blow up on you.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:57 AM on September 15, 2012



"To Whom it Concerns"?


That's for when you don't know who will be reading the letter.

I think the right way to go is separate address blocks, and then "Greetings," or something like that.
posted by gjc at 8:48 AM on September 15, 2012


If it's a formal letter, you should either a) address it to the most senior person or the person who is your main contact, and cc the others; b) send five copies of the letter, addressed to each one individually.

However, since I assume that each addressee will get the exact same letter, and you want each of them to know that the others have received it, you should choose a).

Mail each copy individually.
posted by tel3path at 2:32 PM on September 15, 2012


Send: Director of everything, senior manager, manager

Cc: junior position, junior position (arrange by time in job with most senior first)
-------------

All:

Message body written at as if addressed to Director and Senior only.
posted by DisreputableDog at 9:20 AM on September 19, 2012


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