10 Essential Elements You Need to Include in Every Formal Letter

Why “To Whom It May Concern” is No Longer a Safe Bet for Communications

In the past, using generic formalities in business communications was common practice. It was a way to address people without knowing their name or title, and it was considered polite. However, times have changed, and using “To whom it may concern” is no longer a safe bet. In fact, it can convey the wrong message to your reader. This article will discuss why you should avoid generic formalities at all costs, why they piss people off, and the alternatives to using them.

Avoid Generic Formalities at All Costs

Using formal language in business communications was essential in the past, but today it can appear dated and impersonal. With personalized marketing and communication, you have to speak directly to your audience. By using “To whom it may concern,” you are not only sending a message of disinterest but also displaying a lack of research about your audience.

The Lack of Differentiation Creates a Problem of a Second Sort

Sending messages with a generic salutation also tells your reader that you have no clue who you are addressing. To build lasting relationships, you need to know who you are marketing to and what resonates with them. By doing research about your intended audience or company culture, you can get ideas on how to address them more personally.

Seeming Behind the Times is a Problem in Itself

Using outdated phrases or expressions can make you appear outdated, static, or obsolete. You want to project an image of somebody who is “in the now,” who can adapt to changes in their industry. Avoid using phrases that may give the wrong impression of your business or yourself.

Is it Ever Okay to Use “To Whom It May Concern?”

There are a few scenarios where it may be acceptable to use “To whom it may concern.” One such scenario is when you request a letter of recommendation. Since the letter is not tailored to an individual recipient, it may be acceptable. However, using personalized greetings in any communication is always better than using generic formalities.

There’re Alternatives to Vague, Overly-Used Formal Salutations

The way you address your reader is the first thing they will read, and it sets the tone for the rest of your content. To catch their attention and increase the likelihood they will read your message to completion, try addressing them using one of these alternative salutations:

Cover Letter

When applying for a job, you have only a few seconds to make an impression. Generic wording will not put you at the top of the callback pile. Try using phrases in your next cover letter such as:

– Dear Hiring Manager,
– Hello [first name of recruiter],
– Greetings, [name of department or company]!
– Dear [First name of recruiter],

Business Letter

Building relationships is essential, and it would help if you created a connection with your potential client. Try addressing your prospects using:

– Hi [first name],
– Hi, [company] [department] team!
– Hello, [company]!

Email to Potential Client

Personalizing your email to reflect the recipient’s name and address will increase the likelihood of it being opened. Try using their name in the subject line and salutation. For singular inboxes, try using:

– Hi [first name],
– Dear hiring manager,

For inboxes monitored by multiple users, address your communication to the group, such as:

– Hello [company] recruiting team,
– Greetings, [company] marketing department!


In conclusion, avoid using generic formalities in business communications. Instead, address your readers personally, show an interest in them or their company culture and match your tone to your message. By doing this, you reflect a modern, adaptive, and personalized approach to your communication.

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