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Dear Lovelies v Dear Sirs

Don't say that: 

Dear Lovelies

Do say this: 

Dear Sirs


First, we should say that we can understand why "Dear Sirs" might, in some quarters, seem inappropriate but bear with us. We have history and a form of archaic logic on our side, to say nothing of the admirable quality of brevity.

Those same people might well take exception to the near-wolf-whistle "Dear Lovelies," with its connotations of patronising expressions of approval of, generally, young women.

There is a tendency amongst some for whom English is not a first language to start message with "Dears. " Some might find it endearing, others might consider it a primary filter for junking the mail unread. After all, the first place it came to prominence was in Spam-Scams.

And all of those would be valid but there is another reason: it is simply utterly weird to post a message on a public platform for all to read starting "Dear Lovelies." The poster has lost his audience before the end of the second word of his message. And it would be even more bizarre to read it in a letter or an e-mail.

It is important to think that less is more: familiarity with those you do not know is a very unattractive trait, as is over-familiarity with those you don't know much.

And so, why "Dear Sirs?"

It's archaic and comes from the days when only, or almost only, men were in business. In fact, when dealing with all female law firms, some lawyers would write "Dear Mesdames." But there remains a formal presumption that businesses are at least helmed by men. It's wrong but, arguably, it doesn't matter because everyone knows its wrong and "Dear Sirs" is not to be taken as a statement but as a matter of form. Indeed, in the most formal correspondence, even the "Dear" is left out and e.g. letters to the editor of a newspaper and letters expressing anger over some issue described in the letter are, traditionally, started with the salutation "Sir." Unless, of course the addressee is a woman, in which case "Madam" would be substituted.

The liberals of the late 19th Century would start their pamphlets and speeches saying "friends" which was intended to draw people in, assuming that everyone was a friend, so pre-dating Facebook by a hundred or so years and aiming at a form of inclusion that would cause apoplexy amongst those on the left that think they are being progressive by using a concept that pre-dates the development of Communism and its uprisings. There are those that like it and those that don't. The safest course of action is not to start your marketing pitches with "friends." Again, the target knows you want something and knows you are not his friend and so you've lost the initiative, and probably the attention, before the first comma.

The art is this: treat important messages as if they are correspondence. Don't let an informal medium undermine the importance of your message by encouraging you to discourage others from reading what you have to say.



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