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Forms of address -- formal

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Forms of address -- formal

Postby bnjtokyo » Fri Aug 11, 2006 3:09 am

Suppose you receive a business letter (in English) from, let us say, China or Thailand or some other place you don't know much about and it is signed by XXX YYY.

We assume, since the letter is in English, that XXX is a given name and YYY is a surname, but since we don't anything about the culture, we have no idea whether XXX is commonly given to males or females. For business purposes we want to write a nice reply that encourages our correspondent to do business with us. How do we address our reply?

Dear Mr. YYY?? Dear Ms YYY? Dear Mr. or Ms YYY?
Dear Sir or Madam??

In actual practice, I sometimes surf the net using XXX as a search key and see if I can find any photos or other information that makes the sex of individual bearing the given name clear. But what if that technique doesn't work?

Any suggestions?
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Postby Garzo » Fri Aug 11, 2006 5:22 am

I find this most difficult with Japanese names, as so many Japanese writing in English will call themselves personal-name family-name, but just a few will not. I've got a bit of an idea what names sound like in Japanese, which helps, but it's still awkward. I find that Chinese names are never reversed, and names like Donald Tsang are easy to work out.

Perhaps the best thing to do, if you know the sex of the person, is to write Dear Mr/Ms XXX YYY, and write the full name as they have written it for you.

— Ozrag.
"Poetry is that which gets lost in translation" — Robert Frost
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Postby anders » Fri Aug 11, 2006 5:27 pm

Why not simply 'Dear XXX YYY'?

I might consider 'Dear (or Honoured??) correspondent' or something like that as well. They will most probably understand the difficulties.
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Postby Bailey » Fri Aug 11, 2006 9:48 pm

anders wrote:snipped
'Dear (or Honoured??) correspondent'

honored corespondant is usually how I'm addressed when written to from Nigeria, usually from a General, or some other high muckey muck.
I don't rate that high (getting missives from muckies here )in this Country, but all the royals and Authorities from North-Eastern Africa crave my attention.

mark feeling-honored Bailey

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Postby Palewriter » Fri Aug 11, 2006 10:06 pm

They write to me, too, Mark. We must be really speshul.

I've certainly received lots of missives in my time, but I don't think I've ever gotten one that began with "Hono(u)red Correspondent", with or without the U. I think, if I did, I'd assume it was coming from some lunatic.

I have a very powerful shredder for such missives.

I did get a letter once from the President of the United States that began "Greetings", but that's a whole different story. It wasn't good news, I remember that.

But in dire need, rather than worry about the gender issue, the surname issue, and any other issue that might anger someone off, I think I'd probably use "Greetings". Hell, if it was good enough for Lyndon B. Johnson, it's good enough for me.

-- PW
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!!

Postby skinem » Fri Aug 11, 2006 10:45 pm

"Greetings." A very memorable letter. Not my favorite.

However, I have already won many wonderful prizes!
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Postby Bailey » Fri Aug 11, 2006 11:01 pm

Palewriter wrote:

I have a very powerful shredder for such missives.

hahahahaha
I did get a letter once from the President of the United States that began "Greetings", but that's a whole different story. It wasn't good news, I remember that. -- PW

Were you a citizen of the US or did ol EllBee draft furriners?

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Re: !!

Postby Palewriter » Fri Aug 11, 2006 11:23 pm

skinem wrote:"Greetings." A very memorable letter. Not my favorite.


I've gotten letters I'd rather have had, 4 sure.

Perhaps it's time the English language got a tad more creative with salutations.

"How ya doin'?" seems to be a popular greeting day-to-day. Not to mention "Wassup?" I wouldn't recommend the familiar "How they hangin'?" in formal correspondence; neither does "Who's Your Daddy?" seem appropriate when writing in a business context. "Yo" appears to be gaining some ground, though it might still smack a trifle ethnic. "Hola" is popluar in Texas, but nobody writes to anybody in Texas these days, since we all seem to have acquired the reputation of being illiterate rubes.

"Dear Sir or Madam" would seem to cover most bases, and the old fall-back "To Whom It May Concern" is a handy last resort. They just seem a little tame.

For a slightly more military tone, we could apply the "Eyes Front!" approach, or the slightly mitigated "Heads Up!" Of course, Brits would probably still prefer to use the time-honoured "Ten-shun!" or the more familiar "Listen up!"

Personally, I like to get the worst over quickly, so if I'm writing to a credit-card company, for example, I might begin with: "A$$holes!" or "Cringing Vultures, Banes of My Existence." Something like that.

Perhaps we could move back even farther in time and imagination: "Palewriter the Magnificent, Emperor of All He Surveys, King of Six-Packs, Lord of the Five Heavens, Owner of the Permanent Mortgage, Grand Wazoo of the Toyota Convertible, Lord of Taking Out the Trash and Master of the Limping Lawnmower Salutes You. Listen, Unworthy Cur, and Tremble." Has a certain ring to it, doesn't it?

-- PW the.....oh never mind
"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention to arrive safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming: Wow!!! What a ride!"
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Postby gailr » Sat Aug 12, 2006 12:40 am

It has a certain je nes sais quoi, PW, but I would recommend switching "Listen, Unworthy Cur, and Tremble" to "Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"
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Postby Palewriter » Sat Aug 12, 2006 12:55 am

gailr wrote:It has a certain je nes sais quoi, PW, but I would recommend switching "Listen, Unworthy Cur, and Tremble" to "Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"
-gailr


Shelley certainly had a way with salutations. His farewell, though, was a bit...um...bubbly.

-- Bad PW
"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention to arrive safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming: Wow!!! What a ride!"
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Postby Stargzer » Sun Aug 13, 2006 1:55 pm

Percy was all wet . . . more people remember Mary's Frankenstein than any of his works.

But back on topic, I think Garzo has an appropriate solution:

Dear Mr/Ms XXX YYY, and write the full name as they have written it for you.


Not that I am, or ever have been, or ever will be, involved in international business.
Regards//Larry

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Postby bnjtokyo » Wed Aug 16, 2006 5:53 am

Thank you for your suggestions.

I usually can figure out which name is the surname (I have nearby assistance for Chinese and Korean), but Garzo's seems to be the best way to handle the worst case.

Some of my Japanese colleagues sign their letters like this:

xxx YYY (Ms)

(or Mr, if the person is male)

It seems to be a fairly common practice to type the surname in all caps, and if everyone did it that way, Garzo would be able to identify the family name more easily.

Cheers,
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Postby tcward » Wed Aug 16, 2006 10:56 am

I just have to say, PW and gailr, when you guys start your radio show, please let me know! I don't want to miss a single episode!

-Tim :P
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Postby Bailey » Wed Aug 16, 2006 11:08 am

tcward wrote:I just have to say, PW and gailr, when you guys start your radio show, please let me know! I don't want to miss a single episode!

-Tim :P

I'll second that.
mark Jealous-only-wishes-he-were-funny Bailey

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Postby Palewriter » Wed Aug 16, 2006 3:48 pm

Bailey wrote:
tcward wrote:I just have to say, PW and gailr, when you guys start your radio show, please let me know! I don't want to miss a single episode!

-Tim :P

I'll second that.
mark Jealous-only-wishes-he-were-funny Bailey


That's fine, Tim, but we're only doing the Morning Traffic Report. Actually, gailr is doing most of the work. I get to go "brrmm brrmm" in the background when she says, "...traffic is heavy on the Beltway..."

-- PW
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