DEAR ABBY: I'm in a quandary regarding the proper salutation to use in a letter to an organization when there is no specific person to whom to address it.
When I learned to write business letters, I was taught to use "Gentlemen" or "Dear Sir." Nowadays, with so many women in the business world, the chances are that the executive who reads my letter will be a female. Consequently, "Gentlemen" or "Dear Sir" may be inappropriate.
"Dear Sir or Madam" seems a bit risky since most women are not madams. Is there some all-purpose salutation I have not thought of? -- IN A QUANDARY IN OLYMPIA
DEAR IN A QUANDARY: For formal letters, my preference is "To Whom it May Concern." "Dear Sir or Madam" remains the preferred salutation for a formal business letter when there is no specific person to whom you are addressing the letter. If you are writing to a particular department, consider addressing that manager: "Dear Sales Department Manager," for example.
Incidentally, I checked my dictionary, and the first definition of "madam" indicates that it is used "without a name as a form of respectful or polite address to a woman."