Dear…um…Sirs? Seriously?

I got not one, but two emails today addressed to “Dear Sirs,” and it has really pissed me off.

One was from an RPG-themed publication soliciting advertising. The other was from a convention soliciting prize support. In neither case am I upset about the solicitation in and of itself. Hell, I practically invite conventions to ask me for swag, and I’m usually happy to oblige. And I don’t mind being solicited for advertising, because I do buy ads so that is fine.

What bugs me is the assumption that the company is run by men.

At first I thought, “Calm down, Julie. This is what happens when you check your email before your first cup of coffee.” And that is true. I tend to be in a foul mood first thing in the morning. But the more I thought about it, the more it bugged me.

It would be one thing if it said “Dear Sir or Madam” which is a longstanding business salutation when the gender of the recipient is unknown. I mean, forget the fact for a moment that spending 10 seconds doing a Google search for Bards and Sages Publishing pulls up my name. Heck, they use the contact form on the site. That means they visited the site, found the contact form, and someone failed to see my name all over the site.

But that is fine. I’ve grown accustomed to that level of laziness.

But they didn’t send a lazy “Dear Sir or Madam.” Instead, it was just addressed to “Dear Sirs.”

We’re about thirty years removed from “Dear Sirs” being an acceptable generic salutation. It is 2011. Women make up almost 50% of the workforce. There are thousands of woman-owned small businesses in this country. Tens of thousands of women hold management positions in major companies. And yet I’m getting business emails addressed to “Dear Sirs?”

And it certainly isn’t like we’re anomalies in the gaming community these days. Attend any gaming convention and you’ll find plenty of female gamers. And what about the amazing female writers and developers? People forget about Elaine Cunningham? Margaret Weis? Laura Hickman? Nicole Lindross? Lisa Stevens? I wonder if the CEO of Paizo gets emails addressed to “Dear Sir?”

It is one thing to be lazy and not bother to learn the name of the person you want to request business from. It’s another to hold a worldview that has internalized the notion that anyone in a position of authority or decision-making is by default male. THAT is what a “Dear Sirs” salutation line says.

Now the real question is, do I respond personally, or just send them a link to this post?

5 Replies to “Dear…um…Sirs? Seriously?”

  1. Hello!

    I apologize for this being wildly off topic, but I thought you might want to know:

    I stumbled across this site and wanted to see what books Bards & Sages published. However, when I clicked the helpful link you provide to your Amazon astore (the one with the descriptor “Quick link to all Bards and Sages Books On Amazon.”), it forwarded me to this link: If I understand correctly, that is a page which invites the reader to start their own astore, rather than showing *your* astore. If that isn’t what you meant to do, then I hope this comment was of use. Cheers! 🙂

    • Are you in Canada? I just tested it from two different computers and the link worked fine. I wonder if it is redirecting (or trying to redirect) to the Canadian site? Seems strange an international company like Amazon wouldn’t have the astores redirect correctly.

  2. What does it mean when someone uses a salutation of “Seriously,”??

    First of all she addressed me as ‘MRS’, however I am male…
    Secondly she signs off with ‘Seriously’…

    It was a two-line response from my 13-year-old’s science teacher..

    I’m confused (or should I be insulted?)

  3. This is why I went for ‘Dear Sagacious Bards’, because that’s a gender neutral saluation!

    I’m always thinking too that the person reading my submission is likely to be the slushmonkey, so I get a bit squirmy about addressing the editor directly, as doing so ignores that there are likely other people at the publication.

    Best of all, with those places where I think I can get away with it, I open with ‘Hiya’. ‘Hiya’ is gender (race/species) neutral!


  4. Over the years, I have received (and continue to receive) emails and letters addressed to Sir or Mr. Indeed, my first name isn’t definitely female, but the assumption that because I write/illustrate sf/f/h means I’m male has annoyed me. I’ve learned to sigh loudly, cordially inform the letter writer that a Ms. would be a more appropriate way to address me, and make darn sure I take the time to research (as much as I’m able) the correct salutation for all editors/publishers I approach about publishing my work. My guess – those who address you incorrectly are too lazy to find out you’re a woman, and too lazy to type a few extra letters and include both Sir and Madam. I’d respond personally AND sent them a link to this note.