I recently had to write a letter to an organization where I knew no one and they only knew me as Customer No. 2744108, one of those situations where, in the old days, we simply said “Dear Sir” or “Gentlemen” as the opening salutation.
But no more. We now know that at least half of the people who first read our letter are not men — and for that matter none of them would describe themselves as descendants of minor European nobility entitled to the honorific “Esquire” or “Gentleman” after their names.
But we want to be comfortably polite, don’t we? We need a new, all-purpose, salutation. What we know is that if our letter is read at all it will be read by a person (although this may be changing as I write due to proliferation of optical character recognition systems).
So does “Dear Person” have that ring of politesse? Does it convey an appropriate degree of collegiality? Seems a little cold to me, but no worse than addressing someone by their job title: “Dear Customer Relations Specialist.”
I know that in Japan, that is exactly the way people are addressed routinely: Mr. Deputy Manager of Steel Tube Fabrication Department Jones.
But in America we favor the folksy touch; we go straight to first names in a heartbeat.
So we need a nice, all-purpose, generic first name that everyone will accept as gender-neutral, as sufficiently polite for all commercial circumstances — and most circumstances dealing with state and local governments — and I think I have the perfect one: Bubba.
Everybody wants to be Bubba. Bubba isn’t just brothers, it isn’t just shrimp!
If we could choose, we’d all be Bubba, wouldn’t we?
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