In IELTS (GT), when writing to someone you don’t know (such as when writing to a company), the question tells you to start your letter with:
Dear Sir or Madam,
Otherwise, when writing to a specific imaginary person (such as your neighbour, your boss, your colleague etc), the question tells you to start with:
Dear …………. ,
In that case, what to write after “Dear” depends on the relationship and on the culture.
For IELTS, we can assume the Australian or British culture would apply. Therefore:
- To someone of similar status whom you have spoken with (e.g. a friend, neighbour, colleague, immediate supervisor or line manager), use their first name.
- To someone who is above you in terms of relationship status (e.g. a teacher/instructor, a customer) or whom you haven’t met, use “Mr.” or “Ms.” + (surname), which shows more respect. For example:
Dear Mr. Smith, (for a man) or
Dear Ms. Brown, (for a woman) or
Dear Mrs. Brown, (if you know that she’s married and she prefers ‘Mrs.’) or
Dear Dr. Smith, (if he/she is a doctor)
Don’t address the person as “Sir” + (name) — unless the person has been knighted, in which case, “Sir” + (first name and/or surname).
Some famous people who have been knighted:
- Sir Richard Branson (business magnate)
- Sir Paul McCartney (singer)
- Sir Anthony Hopkins (actor)