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If you don't know someone's отчество, how should you address them at the beginning of a letter/email? As господин/госпожа?

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  • FIRST NAME + LAST NAME should be fine. Use of "господин/госпожа" depends on how formal your letter should be. Addressing someone as "Уважаемый ..." is more common. – Alexander Mar 2 '18 at 17:51
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    FIRST NAME + LAST NAME is formal and detached, i personally don't like being addressed in this manner by private persons who have all means for being more engaging, it's OK when the address is on behalf of organizations or public bodies – Баян Купи-ка Mar 2 '18 at 19:20
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    @БаянКупи-ка agreed. I'd even say that starting a first letter to someone with just a FIRST NAME + LAST NAME can be pretty rude and insulting. I'd expect it to go with a very unpleasant letter. On the other hand Здравствуйте, FIRST NAME + LAST NAME. is pretty neutral – DK. Mar 3 '18 at 0:00
  • @DK preceding it with greeting makes the address less cold but to me it still sounds awkward, i would feel as if i were a kindergarten kid or a schoolboy – Баян Купи-ка Mar 3 '18 at 8:18
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"Глубокоуважаемый(-ая) господин(-жа) LAST_NAME!"

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    one can safely dispense with the глубоко- part – Баян Купи-ка Mar 2 '18 at 19:16
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    Never here it. I personally will consider this as a joke. Don't use this . – talex Mar 3 '18 at 5:26
  • It's really a polite version. But it reminds of a verse by S. Marshak «.Вот какой рассеянный» - Глубокоуважаемый Вагоноуважатый! Вагоноуважаемый Глубокоуважатый! – V.V. Mar 3 '18 at 8:42
  • The much-esteemed commentators may not be aware of the fact that "уважаемый" used to be the way someone higher up the social hierarchy would address a waiter in an inn. Now THAT was indeed a joke. Nothing wrong in showing respect to one's correspondent, if you ask me. – Avi Gordon Mar 4 '18 at 21:05
  • indeed nothing wrong in showing respect, which requirement the word уважаемый satisfies amply, in my opinion addressing with глубокоуважаемый a person whose patronymic you don't know is a little odd, because this fact betrays having little acquaintance with the person which wouldn't allow for deep respect to develop... granted there're cases when this can be justified but they're quite rare... i personally would be surprised to receive a message with such address from an unknown correspondent, it wouldn't feel right to me because of having an adulating undertone – Баян Купи-ка Mar 5 '18 at 8:44
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I cannot come up with anything except:

[Уважаемый/Дорогой/Здравствуйте,] [господин] Имя [Отчество] [Фамилия]!

or

[Уважаемый/Дорогой/Здравствуйте,] [господин] Фамилия Имя [Отчество]!

Here each pair of square brackets indicates an optional part.

Examples:

Дорогой Иван Иванович!
Уважаемый г-н Петр Петрович Петров!
Здравствуйте, Анатолий Вассерман!
Здравствуйте, Вассерман Анатолий Александрович!
Привет, Толя!

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    'If you don't know someone's ОТЧЕСТВО, how should you address them...' – Elena Mar 2 '18 at 20:51
  • @Elena In the answer, square brackets indicate an optional part. So, отчество is optional and can be omitted in most cases. Lines 3 and 5 in the examples illustrate that. – Dmitry Mar 2 '18 at 21:04
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Assuming that you know their first name, these are polite enough:

Здравствуйте, Андрей!

Уважаемый Андрей,

Addressing someone with just their first name in the Вы-register is becoming more popular in the business world. Or if you know them well:

Дорогой Андрей,

If you only know their last name, you can go with господин/госпожа, usually abbreviated:

Уважаемый г-н Иванов,

Уважаемая г-жа Иванова,

These are a lot more formal than the others I've mentioned and are expected in the hospitality industry.

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Well, you can use their name or surname or both. Like:

Дорогой, Андрей or Дорогой, Андрей Петров

You can also use "друг"(friend) if its friend email. Anyway you can even avoid that and just say "Привет/Здравствуйте"(Hi/Hello) and after that start letter body. However there is no particular pattern of writing letter in Russian, so even last proposition is optional.

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  • ... if its friend email — it is not. Patronymic names are never used in informal conversation. Дорогой, Андрей — first, commas are not put inside an address, only on its borders. Second, дорогой has semi-familiar and close relationship-like meaning (as in “my dear friend”). – Arhadthedev Mar 6 '18 at 21:12

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