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Old 5th February 2008, 08:00 PM   #1 (permalink)
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How to address someone

Hi all

I have a feeling this may be an anxiety-based question; but if I've spoken to an agent on the phone and he's said I should address my manuscript to him (as opposed to 'submissions department'), would people recommend I use 'Dear (Mr Surname)' as opposed to 'Dear (firstname)'?

I suspect it might be a matter of playing it by ear, but maybe there is a convention - I don't really write that many letters.

Thank you
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Old 5th February 2008, 08:38 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: How to address someone

Sorry I always tend towards, 'Dear Sir,' 'Dear Mr Smith,' is the more formal, and I'd imagine, safer approach.'
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Old 5th February 2008, 09:30 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: How to address someone

The basic tip I've always heard is to always address query letters to a specific agent when you can. As for how to address them, "Dear Mr. Agent" should be fine. I've always gone with "Dear Joe" or "Dear Joe Agent" myself.
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Old 5th February 2008, 10:58 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: How to address someone

Can't go wrong with "Dear Mr Surname", at least for the first contact letter. Only call him "Dear Joe" when he uses your first name at the start of a reply.
Be aware that British and American conventions appear to be different - personally, I think that "Dear Joe Surname" looks a little odd, but that might just be me.
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Old 5th February 2008, 11:01 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: How to address someone

How to address people...

"OY GIT,"

Always works for me. Some people say my life under the railway arches is somehow related to this forceful introduction... to them I can only say @@** @#$.
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Old 5th February 2008, 11:08 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: How to address someone

Oh, Andrew, you smooth-tongued devil, you!
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Old 6th February 2008, 01:35 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: How to address someone

Quote:
Originally Posted by andrew.v.spencer View Post
How to address people...
"OY GIT,"
That's Mister Git you you!

Personally speaking, I think the intial contact should retain as much formality as possible (while also being personal), so "Mr. Surname" should suffice. However, to be that little be more personal and friendly, "Mr. Firstname Surname" couldn't neccessarily hurt. It all depends, however, on how the specific agent addresses themselves. For example, if someone's agency was called "J. J. O'Brien Literary Agency", "Mr. J. J. O'Brien" might be more suitable. If they sign their website with their name as "John O'Brien", then that might be better still. It could differ entirely depending on the agent in question. I would never address them as "John" or "Joe" until a dialogue has been set up and we were on friendlier terms (or even working together).

Regards,
Dean.
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Old 6th February 2008, 02:24 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: How to address someone

I don't think agents are to be feared and quite frankly I do not think it matters a jot whether you address them 'Mr. Smith' or 'Dear John'. These people are professional businessmen and as such they are interested, or should be in your book and if its good they will get back to you because if they can nurture you into an acclaimed writer with undoubted sales potential then everybody will be happy. PROFIT rules!! that is the reason they are in business. Obviously when everybody has made a few pennies to keep the wolves from the door then money for some can become less important and the approval of your piers becomes a factor.

You never know this time next year we will be millionaires
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Old 6th February 2008, 03:56 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Re: How to address someone

I addressed all of mine Dear Mr Last Name or Dear Mrs. Last Name.
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Old 6th February 2008, 08:48 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Re: How to address someone

It isn't going to make an agent turn you down, one way or t'other, but Dear Mr/Mrs...... will always work, as has been said before.
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Old 6th February 2008, 09:24 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Re: How to address someone

Yes, I think I might use Dear Mr...
The thing is, a few agents I spoke to were (surprisingly) friendly (which was nice - it's not just a 'meat market'!), and as a result it was arranged for them to receive the manuscript personally. To continue that 'friendliness', using the first name seemed like a possibility, but I guess to play it slightly safer, the Mr... might be better. And then a 'further to our telephone conversation' and so on.

But as you say John, it really isn't that important, and in that case, politeness probably is the best tactic

Thank you

EDIT: PS, is my age something worth mentioning (25) in any covering letter? In the paragraph where I talk a little about myself. I can't see age mattering, to be honest, but, well, it is something about me, heh.

Last edited by Teatime; 6th February 2008 at 09:55 AM.
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Old 6th February 2008, 10:21 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Re: How to address someone

Sure, do mention it. All information is useful - how long you've been writing, recent authors you like, your influences...
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Old 6th February 2008, 10:50 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Re: How to address someone

Interesting. An organisation that helps writers get published ('spread the word') advised me to avoid mentioning influences - 'let the work speak for itself' was what they said. I guess it's a matter of going by your instinct...

Last edited by Teatime; 6th February 2008 at 11:05 AM.
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Old 6th February 2008, 01:18 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Re: How to address someone

My pennyworth on the "Dear Sir" subject - what I was taught as formal UK business English is this:

If you know you are addressing a Mr James Smith, then you would put that in full above his address at the top left hand of the letter (with your name and address at the top right hand of the letter)
e.g
Mr James Smith,
Smith & Co
and so on

Then address the letter "Dear Mr Smith", which would then be paired with "Yours sincerely"

"Dear Sir" is paired with "Yours faithfully"

And if you know you are writing to a Mr Smith, I would at no point use Dear Sir, except in a customer complaint situation where you are on the second round of correspondence, or someone is overdue in paying you some money.

I happen to especially dislike the "Dear Mr James Smith" or "Dear James Smith" approach as that
a) Goes counter to what I was taught
b) Is the sort of thing produced by mailing software where they insert names from a database into form letters.


Anyway, good luck with it all.
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Old 6th February 2008, 01:36 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Re: How to address someone

I agree with Montero. I personally rather dislike receiving letters from people I've never met addressed to "Dear Peter", especially as they are nearly always requests for money or advertising puffs.

I suspect that the use of the first name is a cynical attempt to look all matey and jolly as a means of helping with the pitch.

I also think that "Dear Mr. Peter Graham" or "Dear Peter Graham" are just clumsy and wrong. I know that it is different in other parts of the world, but speaking as someone who thinks that reticence and keeping a stiff upper lip are actually things to be proud of rather than vilified (does anyone else vomit at some people's need to share their usually crocodile tears with the whole world?), I'd always use "Mr Surname" when writing a letter to a professional person, unless it was clear I could be less formal.

Regards,

Pete aka The Big P aka The Petester
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