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"To Whom It May Concern" - What does it mean, when is it used?

What is the purpose of this phrase, or should I use "Dear Sir/Madam"?

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Comments  (Page 4) 
To whom it may concern is only applicable in situations where the writer is asked to provide some kind of reference or document which the subject will be able to use at any time.

It is totally incorrect to use this as the start of a letter to a company. The question of how many people are likely to read the letter is immaterial.
Honie
Hi

I would like to know, we can use this phrase or not "to whom this may concern" instead of "to whom it may concern"

if using it, that wrong or not?

Honi
to whom this may concern (You have to use 'To whom it may concern'. Note no capitals needed except for 'To'.)
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AnonymousWhen using "to whom it may concern" in writing a letter are the first letters all capitalized?
Only 'The' is capitalized.
 Clive's reply was promoted to an answer.
Yoong Liat
AnonymousWhen using "to whom it may concern" in writing a letter are the first letters all capitalized?
Only 'The' is capitalized.
It should be Only 'To' is capitalized.
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
HonieHi

I would like to know, we can use this phrase or not "to whom this may concern" instead of "to whom it may concern"

if using it, that wrong or not?

thank you in advance

Honi
No. Don't modify standard phases and terms. Everyone knows, and expects to see, the standard wording. Changing it just causes confusion (or worse).
AnonymousThis is really very simple:
Use Dear Sir/Madam when you know (or can assume) the position of the person you are writing to but not their name or gender. Use To whom it may concern when you don't even know their position. If you use To whom it may concern end with Yours faithfully.

Endi
Hi Endi

Who taught you what you posted? Which book, etc tells you that?

In BrE, when we write Dear Sir / Madam, we write Yours faithfully above the signature.
Hi Clive,

I usually start my letter by "Dear Madam or Sir." I have noticed many times that natives started letters by "Dear Sir or Madam." I do not understand this because I thougth it is against both the "lady first" thing and the fact letter M preceding letter S.

Regards, Osee
Clive
Hi Forbes,

I'd be reluctant to just say to English learners that it's for writing a letter to someone whose identity you don't know. With a definition that simple, I'd prefer to say that you should write 'Dear Sir or Madam'.

Best wishes, Clive

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Hi,

It's just a convention, and not very meaningful at all.

Clive
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