1

I usually start with 'Dear Sir/Madam' in emails when I don't know the gender of the recipient. However, when I have to reply, it seems awkward to use 'sir/madam'. Unfortunately, I am unfamiliar with recipients' names, and I might not make a correct guess about the gender.

An example:

Sender:
Dear Ms Doe,
This will not be a problem anymore
...
Me: Thank you sir/madam.

3

If you had a response, then you know the name. You can then reply to the name that was given to you.

Dear Weather Vane,

Thank you for your reply . . .

Sometimes I am less formal and only reply:

Weather Vane,

Thank you for your reply . . .

I suggest you pitch your tone from the reply you received, which was

Sender: This will not be a problem anymore....

In which case the reply is a simple

Me: Thank you.

  • Is not it a bit informal to use names without adding a Mr/Ms in front of it? – glm Jul 21 '18 at 19:37
  • That is the reason for my final sentence: make a judgement about the business relationship. In the western world, we often use first names very soon, as the relationship is established. Yet my second suggestion is not that informal: it still uses the name supplied. Your judgment must suit the culture where you are working. If the respondant has not indicated gender, IMO the only choice is to simply use the name they replied with, and not make a guess. – Weather Vane Jul 21 '18 at 19:42
  • Thank you, but I guess I need a more formal reply than both your answers. – glm Jul 21 '18 at 19:47
  • In which case you use the original salutation: "Dear Sir/Madam, thank you for your email. . ." and I am at a loss to understand why you asked this question. – Weather Vane Jul 21 '18 at 19:49
  • . . .since from your first comment you don't know what else to write. – Weather Vane Jul 21 '18 at 19:55
2

You can just start with

Hello,

There won't be a lot people that will pay you back with a quite formal "dear X" greeting in e-mail conversation nowadays anyway. Most people start with "Hello" or even "Hi" - at least in my industry (IT consulting), although, of course, it may not be true for the people that you are communicating with.

2

Using "Sir/Madam" is nearly always wrong. It is probably acceptable in the salutation (if you really don't know the name of the person) but not otherwise. It is always far better to find out the name of the person and use it.

In the case of a reply to an email, you will know the person's name, since the bottom of their email will be a signoff that includes their name.

Best regards,
Mary Wright.

You can start your next email "Dear Mary Wright" (It is generally incorrect to use Mr or Ms with a first name.)

In the body, you almost never have to refer to the person by name. Instead, you use the pronoun "you". Note in this answer I use "you" freely. I don't need to know your name. Using "you" is not impolite.

So, in the situation that you describe:

Sender:
Dear Ms Doe,
This will not be a problem anymore

Me: Thank you.

The expression "thank you" does not require a name. It should not have "sir/madam" following it. This is the correct and formal way to say thank you.

Remember "sir" is not formal, it is honorific. It is not used except by schoolchildren. You should avoid using sir or madam in formal communication.

The style you should be aiming for is "business-like". Use simple, plain direct English. Don't use honorifics. This is the expectation in formal writing.

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