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    #1

    Doubt about letter opening

    Dear all,
    I have a question about letter opening. Let me begin by saying that I already read "How to write formal letters" together few threads on this site about letter opening, but I believe that my case is peculiar.

    Let me explain you the context with same details, since they are important.

    Few months ago I attended to a conference where one of the speaker was a woman who owns an enterprise. (Let us call her, for the sake of convenience, Mary Smith.) Her field of activity is closely related to mine (I do research in an University), so I wanted to check with her about the possibility of having a collaboration. Unfortunately, after the talk she left in a hurry and I had no occasion to introduce myself.

    Few weeks ago I managed to find her LinkedIn page, so I am thinking about contacting her via LinkedIn mail, but I am unsure about the opening line.

    • I discarded the easy escape-ways "To whom it may concern" or "Dear Sir/Madam" since I am writing to a specific person
    • I cannot use "Dear Prof. Smith" since she does not work in an University (another easy escape-way closed)
    • In our field it is quite common to be on a first name basis, so if I would have been able to introduce myself at the conference, I would begin with "Dear Mary," but this it seems to me too informal for a first contact.
    • The best solution so far is to use "Dear Ms. Smith" (I do not know her marital status). I thought also to "Dear Mary Smith", but this solution is not mentioned on any site about formal writing that I read.
    • The previous solution would be fine, but I know that she is graduated (in engineering), so I am not sure if I should use her title. However, beginning with "Dear Eng. Smith" sounds strange to me (but English is not my native language, so I can be wrong)


    Any suggestions? (By the way, am I worrying too much?)

    Thank you for your help

  1. 5jj's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Doubt about letter opening

    You probably are worrying too much. The rules of usage and ettiquette are far more liberal than they used to be. However, some people still prefer to be more formal, so it is a good idea to incline towards formality. You can then see how the person you wrote to addresses you, and respond similarly.

    With Ms Smith you are as safe as you can hope to be.

    The only degree that is accompanied by a prenominal title is a doctorate. So, Ms Smith remains Ms Smith whether she has a Bachelor's and/or Master's degree, or any form of certificate or diploma.
    Last edited by 5jj; 23-Oct-2010 at 12:20.

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    #3

    Re: Doubt about letter opening

    I’ve just thought of something else that may be relevant to other readers of this thread. In many countries medical practitioners qualify with an MD – doctorate in medicine. In the United Kingdom, doctors can qualify with a bachelor’s degree. They often also work for some form of membership of one of the Royal Colleges. Despite their lack of academic doctorate, it is usual to address medical practitioners as “Doctor ….”

    Surgeons are different. It is usually considered correct to address surgeons as “Mr/Ms ….”

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    #4

    Re: Doubt about letter opening

    If you are unsure of a female's marital status, then "Dear Ms. Smith" is the safest and most acceptable form of address. (Likewise for a male you can't go wrong with "Mr.") If Mary Smith has a preferred honorific (if she has a PhD and prefers to be addressed as "Dr." or if she has a hereditary title and wants to be called Lady Smith, etc.) she will indicate such in her return correspondence. (Similar to if you meet someone for the first time at a business function or cocktail party; you first address him as "Mr. Jones," and he'll smile and gently correct you as he shakes your hand: "Nice to meet you; oh and by the way, it's 'Reverend' Jones.)

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    #5

    Re: Doubt about letter opening

    Americans do not use "Engineer" as a title the way it is done in some European cultures. An engineer (one who works as an engineer) would simply be a "Mr." (or "Ms.") unless he had a PhD (doctorate), where he might be called addressed as "Doctor."

    A licensed engineer (known as a "Professional Engineer") would have P.E. after his name, but would still be addressed as Mr.

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    #6

    Re: Doubt about letter opening

    Quote Originally Posted by SoothingDave View Post
    Americans do not use "Engineer" as a title the way it is done in some European cultures. An engineer (one who works as an engineer) would simply be a "Mr." (or "Ms.") unless he had a PhD (doctorate), where he might be called addressed as "Doctor."

    A licensed engineer (known as a "Professional Engineer") would have P.E. after his name, but would still be addressed as Mr.
    I think the 'engineer' crept in because in some countries Ing is used as a prenominal for people with some form of Master's degree. It does not imply a connection with engineering.

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    #7

    Re: Doubt about letter opening

    I don't know the exact nature of it, but I have worked in foreign cultures and seen engineers (including myself) referred to with that title. If it is used more broadly for people with degrees in other fields, then that is something I have just learned.

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