How to Start a Cover Letter and How to End a Cover Letter

When you are writing a cover letter, you must adopt a formal businesslike writing style, using the same etiquette you would use for a normal business letter.

Below, we'll look at how to address a cover letter, how to start a cover letter and how to end a covering letter. Plus you'll learn when you should use 'Dear Sir or Madam' and how to ensure that you've correctly addressed a woman.

Once you've read this article, take a look at our cover letter examples or you might want us to produce an impressive professional cover letter for you that will make employers take real notice of your application.

How to Address a Cover Letter

It's very important that you learn how to address a cover letter correctly. You must always put your own address, telephone number (preferably a mobile phone number) and email address at the very top of your covering letter.

Double and triple check your contact details, getting any of this information wrong could cost you interviews, because if an employer can't reach you, they'll just move onto the next applicant.

After your own contact details, you need to next put the name of the person you are writing to, plus their employer's name and address.

You should also add today's date to your letter.

How to Start a Cover Letter

It's crucial that you start and end your cover letters correctly - getting this wrong will make you look incompetent and will not impress an employer and may lead to your application being rejected.

How to start a cover letter is determined by whether you are writing to a named person or not.

If you are writing to named person such as Mr John Jones (or Mrs Jane Jones), then you should start a cover letter with 'Dear Mr Jones' (or 'Dear Mrs Jones').

Don't address them as Dear John or Dear Jane, unless you actually know them personally and are on friendly terms with them - even if you do know them, it may be better to write Dear Mr Jones or Dear Mrs Jones, if this is a formal job application.

Don't start your covering letter with Dear Mr John Jones, this is incorrect, you never put somebody's full name after the 'Dear'. You can only start with Dear Mr Jones or Dear John.

When you are writing a letter when you don't know the name of the person, then you start a covering letter with 'Dear Sir / Madam' or some people prefer to put 'Dear Sir or Madam'. Note that the 'S' of Sir and 'M' of Madam are capitalised.

How to End a Cover Letter

Ending your covering letter correctly is as important as starting it correctly - get this wrong and people will think that you don't know about letter writing etiquette. How to end a cover letter is determined by how you started it.

If you started with 'Dear Mr Jones' or 'Dear Mrs Jones', then you need to end your cover letter with 'Yours sincerely'. Note that 'sincerely' starts with a lowercase 's', not a capital 'S'.

If you started with 'Dear Sir / Madam', then you must end with 'Yours faithfully'. Please note that 'faithfully' does not start with a capital 'F', but with a lowercase 'f'.

How to Address a Woman in a Cover Letter

Real care is needed when you are addressing a woman. If she has written her name in the job advert as Ms Jones or Miss Jones or Mrs Jones, then use this in your covering letter (as above).

But what if she has just written her name as Jane Jones. Do you start the letter 'Dear Ms Jones' or 'Dear Jane'?

She could be really annoyed if you had referred to her as 'Ms' if she is a Miss or Mrs and you shouldn't really put 'Dear Jane' as it sounds too familiar for a letter you are writing to someone you don't know.

To overcome this problem, you just need to telephone the employer and clarify how she prefers to be addressed. If there's no phone number in the job advert, check the employer's website or the Phone Book, Yellow Pages or call Directory Enquires.

When you phone the employer, you just need to tell them that you are writing to Jane Jones and need to know how she likes to be addressed as you are writing a letter to her, "Does she prefer Ms, Mrs or Miss?"

This will show that you can use your own initiative, which will make your application stand out. You'll still need to produce a professional CV (to go with your covering letter), but this will still help you.

Addressing a Cover Letter When There is No First Name

How do you start a cover letter when the job advert just says reply to J. Jones?

Should you use Dear Sir or Madam in your cover letter or Dear Mr Jones?

It's probably best (if possible) to telephone the employer yourself and find out the full name and title (Mr / Mrs / Ms / Miss) for J. Jones.

You may be the only applicant who has bothered to find out, which will make your application stand out. Of course, you'll still need to write a first-rate cover letter and CV, but it will definitely help you.

If you can't find out the name, then you'll have to start your covering letter with 'Dear Sir or Madam' and end it with 'Yours faithfully'.

How to Address a Cover Letter When There Is No Name

Should the job advert not list a named individual, perhaps it just says reply to the HR Department or reply to a PO Box number, how do you start / end your cover letter?

If there's a reference number on the job advert, then you may be able to telephone the employer and find out who is handling this vacancy based on the reference number. Even if there isn't a reference number, you can often still find out who will handle all the applications.

If you can't find out who to address your cover letter to, then you should start a cover letter with 'Dear Sir or Madam' and finish the letter with 'Yours faithfully' (remember to use a lowercase 'f' for faithfully).

What Next?

Please see our cover letter example or get a professional cover letter written for you by our experienced writers, which will raise an employer's interest in your application. You could also combine this with one of our CV writing services, which will significantly improve your CV and ensure you get the interviews you want fast. There is also advice on CV writing in our CV writing tips section.

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