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Is It Weird to Use 'Dear' in Formal Letters?

LetterI was looking up business letters to double check the formatting for a letter I was getting ready to send, when I was reminded of a thought I often have, that it seems really weird to use 'dear' at the start of a formal letter. I realize that 'dear' can mean valuable or precious (as in, 'you'll pay dearly'), but really, how often in spoken language do we refer to people as 'dear' unless it's, pardon the expression, a term of endearment? I would never dream of addressing another engineer as 'dear' when talking to them on the phone. In fact, I have a feeling they'd be a bit offended at the assumed familiarity. I know I'd be taken aback if someone other that a really, really close friend or relative called me 'dear.' So why does everyone do it at the start of letters?

Apparently, I'm not the first person to wonder this same thing.


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The use of "Dear" is the accepted practice in business letters. Many people feel uncomfortable with this, so perhaps it will change.

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