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A couple of people have proposed "Dear Susan Smith." I agree
that it's a useful form when we don't know the sex of the
recipient, or which name is the family name and which is the
I'd prefer Ms. Familyname or Mr. Familyname, though, where those
things are known (or can be found out -- I've called companies
and asked the receptionist about the person to whom I'm writing).
Dear Susan Smith is alienating because it's the salutation that's
typically used on direct mail marketing pieces, which are sent to
huge mailing lists. Such pieces try to be friendly and
personal, but don't succeed. Because the salutation is in a form
that no-one who knew you would use, you know from the beginning
of the letter that you're just another name in the database.