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  1. #1
    ohdacaballero's Avatar
    ohdacaballero is offline Newbie
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    Proper salutation

    Is the salutation "Dear Madams" acceptable in writing formal letters?

  2. #2
    Anglika is offline No Longer With Us
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    Re: Proper salutation

    Welcome!

    Probably best not to use "madams" - the correct word would be "Mesdames".

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    Re: Proper salutation

    Welcome, ohdacaballero.

    There's also a wee problem with meaning (See 3.):

    madam (noun)
    1. (often initial capital letter) a polite term of address to a woman, originally used only to a woman of rank or authority: Madam President; May I help you, madam?
    2. the woman in charge of a household: Is the madam at home?
    3. the woman in charge of a house of prostitution.

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    Re: Proper salutation

    Quote Originally Posted by Anglika View Post
    Welcome!

    Probably best not to use "madams" - the correct word would be "Mesdames".
    Isn't 'mesdames' the plural of the French 'madame' and not the English 'madam'?
    Casiopea, I bet few people know of the third meaning. However, if you capitilize 'madam' to 'Madam' I'm sure the ambiguity is cleared.-q

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    Re: Proper salutation

    Trust me, I am no Madam in both senses of the word (both if titles must be capitalized), and most, if not all North American woman abhor the term--save the title Madam President.

  6. #6
    Ouisch's Avatar
    Ouisch is offline Moderator
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    Re: Proper salutation

    I rarely disagree with our esteemed Cas, but I have to throw in my two cents here....I was taught years ago that the proper salutation for a business letter if you don't know the addressee's surname or sex is "Dear Sir or Madam." It sounds antiquated, but it is still the accepted form. Even the venerable Miss Manners agrees:


    NewStandard: 9/18/97

    ...That tells Miss Manners that there is an urgent need for a set form that people can refuse to use because they feel that it is too formal or too cute or not original. This will inspire them to improvise something original that will be off-putting to their correspondents, who will consider it too formal or too cute and not even all that original.
    Isn't that the way we now do it with snail mail?
    Speaking of which, how is it possible that there are still people alive on earth who are astonished to discover that ladies are now sometimes permitted to open mail at business establishments, and that therefore the salutation "Dear Sir" to an unknown individual may be in need of revision?
    Miss Manners receives this startled cry by every post, even though it is more than a century since gentlemen came up with the not-altogether-altruistic notion of unloading the office mail on ladies.
    The answer is "Dear Madam or Sir." In the plural, it is "Ladies and Gentlemen," although Miss Manners is willing to let pass the less traditional "Gentlewomen and Gentlemen" for those who still believe that equality is best symbolized by making female conventions look as much as possible like male ones. (If the terms must match, why does no one ever suggest "Ladies and Laddies"?)
    Yes, these are formal modes of address. Do you really think it wise to get smart with someone whose gender you don't know?
    Miss Manners considers it her duty to repeat these business-letter forms as often as necessary.

  7. #7
    Anglika is offline No Longer With Us
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    Re: Proper salutation

    Absolutely right - Dear Sir or Madam. However, the question related to the plural "Madams". Technically, the plural is the French "Mesdames" since the singular form is Madam[e] (it has lost the final "e" over the last 200 years. ohdacaballero would be sensible to look for an alternative!

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