It happens all the time.
The people that matter, the people you’re sending a letter, the people who will read it or see it, they will know if you get it wrong.
They will know you don’t know what you’re doing—unless you have a reliable point of reference to check your work and to answer your question.
It happened to me today. I’m addressing a letter to a personal friend of mine, I have known him for years. He happens to be the president of a university.
On the inside I write Dear, (first name) because, like I said, I know him, it would be pretentious for me to put a full title inside a personal hand-written letter to a friend.
But the envelope must be right. How do you address a letter to the president of a university?
- I do/you do
- His/her assistant
- He/she will know (not because of pretentiousness, but because as I said above, the people you address, will know you got it wrong and, even if just for an instant, they will wonder why)
There’s a solution, an answer, a book and web site you absolutely must know about.
Sometimes it seems like a small detail, but forms of address carry the same weight as proper spelling of one’s name. You wouldn’t want to spell someone’s name wrong, you don’t want to get the form of address wrong either.
Robert Hickey’s book must be on your shelf, in your library, in your office, and anyone sending/addressing correspondence on your behalf must have access to it.
But everything speaks.
Don’t say anything you didn’t intend to say because you got something small “wrong.”