Imagine that you are sitting down to write a letter and greet two people at once. You want to sound formal, but you ask yourself, “Is it correct to say, ‘dear both’ when addressing them?”
It is not considered good form to say “dear both,” although it is technically correct. Saying or writing “dear both” tends to come off as awkward to the listener or reader. If you choose to use the phrase, it should only be used for two people. You may choose to use can name(s), title(s), or prefix(s) instead.
“Dear both” is a quick and easy way to address two people, but it is not common and can sometimes seem insincere. Keep reading to learn about more acceptable salutations.
Is It Grammatically Correct to Say “Dear Both”?
It is grammatically correct to use “dear both.” For instance, famous authors, including Charles Dickens and others, have used the phrase in the past.
However, in modern-day writing, especially in letters and emails, the use of “dear both” is no longer widely accepted.
What Does “Dear Both” Mean?
“Dear both” is a written salutation or greeting that addresses two people at one time in a letter or email. You will usually find “dear both” in written form as it is extremely awkward to say or hear “dear both” in verbal conversation.
How Do You Write “Dear Both?”
If you are addressing two people in the same letter, you can write “dear both” as your salutation to include both recipients.
Congratulations on the arrival of your new baby.
In the above note, the greeting addresses both parents of a new baby without using each of their names.
This can sound too formal, though, and it can read as impersonal. So, many scholars do not recommend this greeting when addressing close friends or family. Often, using their names is just as simple and sounds more natural.
How Do You Use “Dear Both”?
You would usually use “dear both” to address a couple that you are unfamiliar with.
When Can You Use “Dear Both”?
For example, if you are a business owner with wedding services, you may use “dear both” to greet your customers. This may be more beneficial than using their individual names because they may or may not share a last name.
With that said, using “dear both,” even in a professional way, may sound detached or too impersonal. Another option would be to use their individual names (if you know them) or something like “Dear Customer” instead.
We’ll talk more about formatting a salutation with one or more names a bit later in this article.
In What Context Can You Use “Dear Both”?
As long as you use “dear both” to address two people in written form, you are using the phrase in the proper context.
Because the word “both” pertains to a pair of something, remember that it is only correct to say “dear both” when you are specifically writing to the attention of two people.
The best time to use “dear both” is if you use letters to address your business customers IF you own a catering business and work with a lot of couples for weddings, birthday parties, or holiday gatherings.
Although this is the best method, it can still be a bit awkward, so it may be best to use it sparingly.
Using “Dear Both” in a Full Sentence
You can use “dear both” in a sentence that you are writing, but again, this can be tough to do while also trying to sound natural. The examples below demonstrate some of the most natural ways to use “dear both” as a full sentence or salutation.
- Dear Both Wilson Sisters: Tara and Katie,
- Dear Both Insurance Holders,
- Dear Both Bride and Groom,
Note that the above examples are all written salutations that you can use to address two people only, given that “both” indicates two recipients.
When you specify the subject by adding a name or title to it, “dear both” doesn’t sound as impersonal or uncomfortable as when you use the phrase by itself.
Regardless, the phrase is grammatically correct as a stand-alone salutation.
When Not to Use “Dear Both”
Many scholars would say that you should refrain from using “dear both” to address people, even in a professional way.
This is because to native English speakers, “dear both” sounds much too formal or outdated. Some native speakers may even mistake your gesture for sarcasm or humor.
Whether you decide to use “dear both” or not, there are times when you absolutely should not use the phrase.
Addressing Only One Person
If you only address one person in a letter, it is not correct to use “dear both” because “both” implies two people.
In this case, instead of writing “dear both” as your salutation or greeting, you would write something like the following:
Dear (title + name), or Dear (first name + last name),
- Dear Mr. Bronson,
- Dear Emily Sanders,
In the above example, “Mr.” is a noun that identifies Bronson’s title. You can use this method of addressing people in your letters or use their first and last name, like in the second example.
Both of these written greetings are formal, but they do not read as impersonal or awkward as using “dear both.”
Addressing More Than Two People
If you are addressing more than two people, you should avoid using “dear both.”
“Dear both” implies that you are referring to two people only, so using it for three or more people can cause confusion.
For example, if you are addressing three brothers with the same family name, it would be confusing and non-inclusive to say “dear both.” This is because “dear both” would only refer to two of the brothers, not all three.
The following examples demonstrate a few ways that you can address the brothers without using “dear both.”
- Dear Alvin, Liam, and James Carter,
- Dear Carter Brothers,
- Dear Alvin Carter, Liam Carter, and James Carter,
Notice that all of the examples mention or imply that you are addressing all three brothers. In this way, there is no confusion about who you are addressing, and no one feels left out or forgotten.
Verbally Addressing Two People
It is best to use the phrase “dear both” in written form, not in a verbal conversation.
Greeting two people verbally by saying “dear both” is not at all commonplace. They may think that you are joking with them and trying to be sarcastic and may not take you seriously.
What Can You Use Instead of “Dear Both?”
Instead of using “dear both” to address two people in a letter, you can use the names of the people you want to address. You can also use their title or prefix to address them more formally without sounding unnatural.
- Dear Dr. Johnson and Mr. Green,
Notice that this salutation addresses two people of different titles. The greeting shows the proper respect to the recipients without sounding overly formal.
How Do You Write “Dear” for Two People?
Writing “dear” for two people without using “dear both” is similar to writing a salutation to three or more people. However, how you write your salutation may change depending on whether the recipients share a last name.
Writing “Dear” When Addressing Couples
If the two people you are writing to are a couple with the same last name, you can usually address them together using their prefix (source).
Take a look at the following sentence structure:
Dear (prefix) and (prefix) + (last name)
- Dear Mr. and Mrs. Brown,
Note that the above example only works with couples with the same last name. If the two people are siblings or if the couple does not share a last name, this method will not work.
Writing “Dear” When Addressing Family Members
If you are writing a letter to two people with the same last name but that are not a married couple, it would be better to use the following sentence structure:
Dear (first name) and (first name) + (shared last name),
- Dear Amy and Alex Riverdale,
This works for both family members who share the same last name and married couples.
Writing “Dear” for Two People With Different Last Names
If you are addressing two people with different last names in a letter, you could follow this sentence structure to avoid using “dear both”:
Dear (first name + last name) and (first name + last name),
- Dear Arnold Matthew and Timothy Grant,
This method of addressing two people in a letter may be one of the most common written salutation styles.
It is useful when addressing people with different last names and people who share a surname or last name (source).
Is It Polite to Say “Hi Both?”
If using “dear both” in a written salutation is awkward, readers may consider “hi both” as rude, especially in a formal letter.
“Hi” is much more informal than “dear” and sounds even more impersonal. It is best to avoid using “hi both” in almost all written salutations.
How Do You Say “Hi” to More Than One Person in an Email?
When you are addressing more than one person in an email, it is not usually acceptable to say “hi both,” even if you are talking to two people.
It is more widely accepted to say “hi” to more than one person in an email if you use the following greeting examples:
- Hi All,
- Hello All,
- Hi Everyone,
- Hello Everyone,
Notice that “hi” can be interchangeable with “hello,” but using “hey” is usually thought of as too informal and unprofessional.
Distinguishing Parts of Speech
Earlier in this article, we established that “dear both” could stand alone as a full sentence. This is not only because it is a type of salutation but also because of its sentence structure.
Generally, you can create a sentence using a subject, a verb, and an idea that brings it all together (source).
Although using a subject and verb to create a sentence is usually the standard, you can make full sentences using an adjective and a noun or even a pronoun, such as with the phrase, “dear both” (source).
Observe the sentence structure in the following:
Adjective + Noun/Pronoun.
- Smart man.
- Beautiful car.
These sentences are incredibly short and simple, but you get the meaning that they are trying to convey. The man is smart, and the car is beautiful.
This concept works the same way when you break down the salutation “dear both.”
The “dear” in “dear both” is an adjective that means something is special to you. The word “both” in “dear both” is another way of saying “both of them” or “both of you,” which makes it a pronoun in this case.
If you want to know more about using the “both” as a pronoun, check out “Is It Correct to Say ‘Thank You Both’?”
Using Common Phrases and Idioms
“Dear both” is not an idiom, but you can use idioms and common phrases to replace “dear both” and make your greeting sound more natural. Remember that an idiom is a group of words that have meaning not necessarily attributed to the individual words but rather the cultural context.
It is acceptable to use common phrases and idioms in place of a formal greeting, especially if you are sending out your letters during a special time of the year.
For example, if you are sending a holiday card, it is not uncommon to skip the individual salutation and use a common phrase or idiom.
- Season’s Greetings!
This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
This greeting is impersonal but not impolite. It is also widely accepted during the holiday season and not considered awkward in the way that “dear both” may sound to some.
The scholarly debate about using “dear both” as a salutation is ongoing, but it is not incorrect. If you decide to use the greeting, make sure that you write it for exactly two people. You may, however, find that you would like to use a more common greeting instead.
If so, using a title, prefix, or first and last name is simple and the most common way to address the recipient of your letter or email.