You want to send an email, but you don’t know the gender of the person who will be receiving it. Is the phrase “Dear Sir or Madam” a suitable salutation?
We’re here to answer that question, while also providing a list of great gender-neutral alternatives to this phrase that you can use in formal and casual settings.
Gender-Neutral Alternatives to “Dear Sir or Madam”
- Dear [Name]
- Hi there
- Two Whom It May Concern
- Dear [Job title]
- Dear [Department]
- Good Morning
- Good Day
- Good Afternoon
- Dear Valued Customer
- Dear Valued Employee
- Hi [Name]
- To [Name]
- To [Job title]
- To [Department]
- Dear [Company Name]
- Dear [Team Name]
- Dear Hiring Manager
- Dear Recruiter
- The phrase “Dear Sir or Madam” is not gender neutral, as it excludes people who are non-binary.
- In formal circumstances, you can start an email or letter with “Dear [Name]” instead.
- In informal settings, you can simply say “Hi there.”
Stay where you are! In the next section, we’ll discuss some appropriate formal and informal alternatives to “Dear Sir or Madam” that are polite and gender-neutral.
Afterward, we’ll consider the appropriateness of the original phrase. Is it still acceptable to use it?
Dear [Name] (Formal)
From time to time, you may wonder what to say instead of “Dear Sir or Madam” when writing an email.
This could be because you don’t know the gender of the receiver or you know that they are non-binary. Thus, neither “sir” nor “madam” are appropriate ways to address them.
“Dear [Name]” is the best example of how to address a non-binary person in an email. After all, it’s perfectly formal and polite. Moreover, these days, you can typically find out the name of the person you’re addressing. That’s the wonder of the internet!
Additionally, this solution works for an application letter. Generally, it’s considered a good idea to learn the name of the head of recruitment if you want them to bother reading your cover letter!
In summary, starting an email or letter with “Dear [Name]” is both polite and gender-neutral. This makes it our favorite formal alternative to “Dear Sir or Madam.”
Finally, let’s see an email making use of this phrase:
Thank you for your application to our company.
A member of our recruitment team will be in touch within the next five days.
Cole Burham (Head of Recruitment)
If you are unable to find the name of the addressee, you can always go with their job title or the name of their company. For instance:
Dear Hiring Manager,
Please see the attached application below.
Hi There (Informal)
If you’re looking for the non-binary version of “Dear Sir or Madam” in informal settings, why not simply go with “Hi there”?
This phrase is friendly and casual while being gender-neutral to boot! You might see this phrase in marketing emails that go out to a group of people. Moreover, you could use this phrase in a casual letter or a message online.
We wouldn’t recommend using this phrase in formal circumstances. However, it is definitely a better option than “Dear Sir or Madam” in informal settings. The latter phrase is rather stuffy and outdated!
Moreover, you should only use it in a cover letter if you know that the tone of voice in the company is casual. If you’re in doubt, you’re better off using our formal alternative!
Lastly, let’s look at an email example making use of this salutation:
We noticed your profile has been accessed by an unrecognized device.
If this was you, please ignore this email.
If this activity seems peculiar, please click on the link below.
The Social Profile Team
Is “Dear Sir or Madam” Gender Neutral?
The phrase “Dear Sir or Madam” is not gender-neutral. After all, it tends to exclude our non-binary brethren who consider themselves neither a man nor a woman.
Furthermore, this phrase is considered old-fashioned these days, and lazy too! After all, with the whole online realm at our fingertips, it’s very unlikely that you can’t find the name of the person you are addressing your email to.
As such, it’s generally not acceptable or appropriate to use this phrase in modern times.
Nonetheless, if you’re in an unlikely situation where the name of the addressee is impossible to find, we would recommend using one of the synonyms on our list. For example, you can address them by their job title or company name.
If you think you might make use of our list of alternatives next time you’re drafting a letter or email, why not bookmark this page for later?