How to Address a Letter
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Even in the age of the internet, knowing how to address letters is essential. There are many reasons for sending a letter: you may need to send reports on behalf of your company or write to prospective employers discussing a job application. Either way, it's crucial to make sure that every letter you send is polite and suitable for its intended purpose.
This article will show you how to address a letter within Australia, including the correct style, which titles to use and some tips for letter addressing etiquette.
What information do you need to address a letter?
Before you sit down to write your letter, make sure you that you have all the information you will need. This will save any confusion or time later on.
Your full name - you can either state your first name and surname (Mary Jones), your title and surname (Mrs Jones), or your title and full name (Mrs Mary Jones). If you have a preferred title, make sure that you specify this.
Business name, if you are writing on its behalf. If you are sending a personal letter, you don't need to include any workplace information here.
Your full address, or your company's full address, including road number and name, city, state and postcode. If you are writing on behalf of your business, check that you have the right mailing address, as this might be different from your office's physical address.
The full name and title of your recipient (for example, Mrs, Ms, Mr, Dr, or Prof). Most people shorten Doctor (Dr.) and Professor (Prof.) when addressing letters.
Your recipient's full name, business name and complete address.
How to address a letter
Knowing how to address a letter correctly shows that you are a professional individual. Here is a step by step guide to follow when addressing a letter.
Start with your name and address
Firstly, write your name, business details and address in the top left hand corner of the letter.
Doing this helps the recipient see who you are and where you are from. If they are expecting a letter from you, they may recognise your name and address and will be able to read the letter with familiarity.
Include your address to help the recipient to reply easily without searching for the address. It is a form of courtesy and shows that you value your recipient's time.
You can include your email and phone number after your address if you wish to be contacted through these methods.
Write the date underneath
Leave a blank line, then write the date of correspondence. Write this out in full (e.g 1st March 2021), rather than in shorthand, so it cannot be misinterpreted.
Having a date on your letter is important as sometimes letters can get delayed in the post and arrive late. Including a date gives the receiver an idea of the exact day events took place.
It could also help you out. If you are posting a job application and the post is delayed, you could be in danger of missing the deadline. However, the recipient may still count your application if they know that there have been postal issues and your letter is dated before the deadline.
Include the recipient's name and address
Skip another blank line and then add the full name and professional title of your recipient. Ensure that this is correct and shows respect - if the recipient is a doctor or professor, they will likely want to be addressed by this title.
Common titles include the following:
Mr - this is the title that is used for most male adults, apart from those who have acquired another status through education or vocation.
Mrs - this title is used for some married women who choose the title.
Ms - historically, this title was used for unmarried women or women who have an unknown marital status. However, nowadays it is used for any woman who prefers not to be judged by their marital status.
Mx - non-binary people use this title and some people prefer it to a gendered term.
Doctor - people who have acquired a PhD qualification will generally use this title.
Professor - university lecturers generally use this title.
General or another army title - if you are writing to somebody in the army, they may go by Gen. or another title.
Doctor and professor are sometimes interchangeable, so it is best to check what the specific person uses before sending the letter. It is also advisable to confirm whether your correspondent uses Mx by checking the website or calling the company and asking for their full name.
Then write their company's mailing address. This should be a complete address and include their office name or number, building, road, city, state and postcode.
Ensure that you check their mailing address before sending a letter - even if you think you already know it, there may be some specific details to include.
If you are unsure about any of your recipient's contact information, try some of these avenues:
Check their website for the correct mailing address and confirm that any correspondence you send to this address will reach the correct person. To find somebody's full name, try browsing the ‘contact us' or ‘about us' pages on their businesses' website.
If you have a rough idea of their name but want to confirm their correct title, you can do an online search and check your records with the information you find.
Call their place of business and ask for the best mailing address for them.
If you are sending a letter on behalf of your business, check your business address book or ask your colleagues for the correct address.
You could also check online directories, which sometimes detail the addresses of certain businesses. However, these can be outdated - so it's best to confirm any addresses found here.
Include a salutation
Before writing the content of your letter, you should include a salutation. This greets the reader and starts the letter positively.
Common salutations are ‘dear', ‘hello', and ‘hi'. ‘Dear' is used for any professional correspondence; if you don't personally know the person who you are writing to, or if you only know them in a professional capacity, this should be the salutation you use.
Reserve ‘hello' and ‘hi' for more casual acquaintances. If you are writing to someone you have a good working relationship with and can chat casually with, these salutations could be appropriate.
Next, include the same title as you did at the start of the address. Through research, you should have found the full name of the person to whom you are writing.
It is generally a good practice to find the full name of your correspondent. This personalises the letter and shows that you are prepared to make an effort to research when necessary.
However, in rare situations, you may find yourself writing to an unknown person or your message could apply to multiple people. If this is the case, you could include salutations like the following:
Dear Sir or Madam - this could be used for a general letter when you are not sure of the person to who you are writing.
To Whom It May Concern - use this phrase for letters of interest or broad enquiries. Make sure that you capitalise the whole phrase.
Dear Human Resources Manager - as this phrase targets one specific person, you should only use it if there is no way to find out their title and full name.
It is far better if you can find the details of the person you are addressing. However, these salutations are polite and appropriate if the details are not available.
Ensure that all details are correct
Once you've addressed your letter, confirm that everything you have written is correct.
Make sure that there are no spelling or grammatical errors in this section of your message. It is the first part of the letter that your recipient will see, so you should ensure that it will leave a good impression.
Here is an example of how to address a letter from your workplace.
683 High Street
email@example.com, 0491 191 919
18th November, 2021
Prof. Liam Truman
NSW Government Agency
Dear Prof. Truman...
Here is an example of how to address a personal letter.
284 Wayfield Drive
Ms. Lesley Patmore
Perth Hotel Group
123 Sydney Street
Dar Ms. Patmore...
Addressing a letter is a task that most professionals will have to do throughout their career, whether they are writing to clients or sending a job application.
As there is a specific way of addressing professional letters, it is crucial to get it right. This will often be the first impression that the recipient has of you, so it's important to make it positive. If you follow this simple guide, you will be able to address your letters correctly every time.
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