Grammar When Should You Use To Whom It May Concern? |
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When Should You Use To Whom It May Concern?

The classic letter opening To Whom It May Concern was once incredibly common and popular. You might be seeing it used less often these days, which might lead you to wonder when the salutation is proper to include in a letter or email.

We will address that topic and more in this discussion.

The Concern Over To Whom It May Concern

This greeting used to be frequent because it was a formal, respectful way to approach written communication with people whose identity or familiarity might not be known. For instance, if you had been writing to the manufacturer of your favorite product, this could have been a proper opening to your letter. Another common salutation in the same spirit was Dear Sir or Dear Madam.

In recent years this has become less preferred. For one thing, many people consider it to be too old-fashioned. We also live in a time when finding names and other contact details is easier than ever. Beginning correspondence with To Whom It May Concern could give the impression that we did not make the effort to find out who would want to read the letter when such information is available.

The good news is that there are other approaches to suit contemporary preferences. Let’s look at some.

Alternatives to To Whom It May Concern

Often when people begin a letter or email with To Whom It May Concern, they do so because they cannot think of a more appropriate greeting. Here are some other ways you can open a letter today:

  • Dear (person’s name)
  • Hello
  • Greetings
  • Re: (topic of letter or email)
  • Dear (title or department name)

Each of these could be perceived as more directed and engaging than To Whom It May Concern. Among those who view them as such, your letter or email could inspire a more-positive reaction from the start.

Going Back to the Original Question

Although it’s typically better to use an alternative greeting today, we won’t say that you should never write To Whom It May Concern. Occasions remain in which using it still can make sense. For instance, if you do your research and do not locate a specific recipient for your correspondence, you are justified in using To Whom It May Concern, which will still present your letter or email as respectful.

In other instances, such as writing a letter or email to express a grievance, you might not be concerned about directing your complaint to a specific person. You might also not be preoccupied with how the tone of your communication will be received. This is a case when you might use To Whom It May Concern to open your letter.

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