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    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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I See That Ice is Slowly Melting

I’m back and we’re going to attack the query letter piece by piece, bite by bite. Today, The salutation:

Dear Betsy:

Dear Betsy Lerner:

Dear Betsy (if I may):

Dear Literary Agent:

Hi Betsy:

Dear Ms. Lerner

Which do you choose and why?

23 Responses

  1. Dear Ms. Lerner
    Because it’s formal and business related. Except I know you and consider you a friend so actually I’d probably say “Hi Betsy!”
    Hope you write a post about the kidney donator vs the Grub Street writer idea appropriation!!!

  2. Dear Ms. Lerner. All business. Professional. Respectful. Anything else feels weird to me, an old bag form the old school.

  3. Dear Ms/Mr./Mx..(check pronouns):

  4. Ms Lerner

    not one of your options

    simpler. Less enDEARing

    last name because if we were to address a man we would not say

    Dear Bill (William James)

  5. Ms Lerner

    not one of your options

    simpler. Less enDEARing

    last name because if we were to address a man we would not say

    Dear Bill (William James)

  6. Dear Betsy Lerner except where a preferred salutation was specified in which case I did what I was asked.

  7. I would choose “Dear Ms. Lerner.” This choice is a reflection of my age and upbringing. I am of the generation who witnessed and participated in the transition from “Dear Mrs.” and “Dear Miss” to “Dear Ms.” While less formal modes of salutation have arisen, in this context, as an initial contact from one seeking consideration, I would keep within the long-accepted form. If I have any doubt as to the agent’s gender — and such doubts are not uncommon, given the wide variety of names with which people may be named — then my salutation would be “Dear [agent’s whole name].” If the agent had made it clear that some other form of salutation was appropriate and preferred, I would use the agent’s stated preference.

  8. Dear Betsy Lerner

    It keeps us equal.

  9. Dear Ms. Lerner,

    This is the appropriate way to address a potential business partner and start a business relationship.

    Querying an agent is no different than applying for a job. It is a business transaction. Once a writer and an agent have mutually agreed on this relationship, it’s okay to then start with the first name.

    In other news, I’m doing a writer in residence thing next week and I’ve just learned in the past week – – – the place is HAUNTED. 😳

  10. Dear Ms Lerner OR Dear Betsy Lerner

    It’s proper, it’s business, and I’m old school

  11. Dear Betsy Lerner…

  12. Dear Ms. Lerner — this is business not a “hi” friend, family member or even acquaintance. I would do this even if I had met the agent on earlier occasions(s)..

  13. dear ms. lerner–this is serious business. you have a friendly name, betsy, so i’d be tempted to call you by your first name, but i’d correct myself. there are boundaries.

    i don’t want to be familiar, unlike the ‘kidney person’ in the NYT this past week. YIKES.

    rea

    • Dear Ms Lerner:
      I would choose Ms Lerner because it’s professional and I’ve never even met you.
      Love,
      Marie

    • The kidney person. Yikes, indeed. I remember in my poetry workshop, one poet “stole” another poets’ description of waves and we talked about it for months over grilled cheese sandwiches.

      Dear Ms. Lerner is also fine.
      I have a friendly name but I’m a rat bastard, as you know.

  14. I realize it’s convention, but I think the use of “Dear” in this situation is mistaken almost all of the time. “Dear” is used as an adjective here, isn’t it? If so, are you dear to me the way a family member or a lover would be? Rather, if it’s all business, as this potential relationship would be, then you would seem far from “dear” at this point. I’m pretty sure it’s actually the use of the vocative case (high school Latin serves me again!). In this case, it’s an address, and Ms. Lerner is the most precise and carries the least baggage.

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