Learn English – How should I address someone with a known name and unknown gender


When communicating with foreign cultures, the gender of the addressed person is not always clear from the name. What would be a professional way to address someone in this situation. (Dear Mr or Ms SomeForeignName looks awkward).

A hack I generally use is to do a google image search for the name, but this isn't always accurate in all cultures. What's the solution here?

Best Answer

Working part-time in customer support, I have to deal with the same situation very often, and I often have to google for "awkward" names, too. What I usually end up with when nothing helps, is either of the following:

  • I just drop the "Mr/Ms" altogether. "Dear Maria Cannavaro", "Dear Wei Li", etc.
  • If the person is located in the US, I assume that they do not object to being addressed by their first name. "Dear Maria", "Dear Alex".

Also, I might sometimes use a simple "Hi there" or "Hi", but usually only if the person has previously contacted me using a similar informal address.

Lastly, sometimes people do ask me for a license key in a formal, polite way, but sign as "B. Smith". In that case, they either don't really care how I address them, or they don't want me to figure out their gender or full name for some reason, which I must respect. Not one of these people has ever objected to my use of "hi".

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