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Cover Letter Writing Etiquette

Always make sure you start and end your cover letters correctly. If you are writing to Mrs Jane Smith then you should start the cover letter 'Dear Mrs Smith' and finish it with 'Yours sincerely' - N.B. 'sincerely' does not start with a capital 'S'.

Particular care is required when you are writing to a woman. If she has just written her name as Jane Smith do you start the letter 'Dear Jane' or 'Dear Ms Smith'. She might be offended if you refer to her as 'Ms' and you might not feel comfortable writing 'Dear Jane' as it sounds too familiar. To get round this problem all you have to do is ring the company and ask them how she likes to be addressed. If there is not a telephone number for the company in the advertisement just call Directory Enquires in the UK. When you ring the company all you have to say is that you are writing to Jane Smith and you would like to know whether she is a Ms, Mrs or Miss so your letter can be correctly addressed.

If the advertisement just says reply to J. Smith how would you address the letter? Dear Sir? or Dear Madam? Dear Mr Smith? You would be well advised to ring the company and find out J. Smith's full name and title (Mr/Mrs/Ms/Miss). Remember politeness costs you nothing, but it can really pay dividends and you will probably be the only person who has bothered to find out. This may distinguish you from everyone else who applied - being noticed is the key to writing a potential interview-winning covering letter.

If the advertisement just says write to the HR Department or reply to Box Number 55 it may not be possible for you to find out who will be handling your reply. In these cases you will have to start your letter 'Dear Sir/Madam' and finish the letter with 'Yours faithfully'. Please note that 'faithfully' does not start with a capital 'F'.

Next: 1. Example ad + letter.

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