How to Choose the Right Email GreetingsStarting an email seems like no big deal, but your choice of words can have a massive impact on how the rest of your message is received. In this guide, we’ll analyze the importance of email greetings, and provide you with examples of how to start an email—among them, you can find a suitable opening for just about any occasion.
Understanding Your EmailThe right salutation goes a long way in establishing a message’s tone. Consider the following factors before you decide how to start your correspondence:
- Your reader. Are you writing to your best friend? Your boss? Someone you’ve never met?
- The format of your message. Is this an email? Thank you note? Business letter?
- The content of your message. Are you delivering bad news or giving a compliment?
What Should be in a Professional Email Greeting?
The salutation is the greeting at the beginning of a letter or email message. Since the salutation is the first thing a recruiter, hiring manager, or another business contact will see, it’s important for the greeting to set a tone that is interpreted as appropriate by the recipient.
Appropriateness depends on:
- How well you know the recipient
- Whether you are sending a written or printed letter or an email
- The type of letter you’re sending
In general, the better you know the person and the more casual the correspondence, the less formal the salutation you can use.
Professional Email Greetings to Use
- Dear First name Last name (this works well if you don’t know the gender of the person you’re writing to)
- Dear First name (when emailing someone you know)
- Hi First name (when emailing someone you know)
- Dear Mr./Ms. Last name
- Dear Mr./Ms. First name Last name
- Dear Dr. Last name
- To Whom It May Concern
- Dear Human Resources Manager
- Dear Hiring Manager
Use the proper punctuation after your greeting. For more formal emails, use a semi-colon after the name. For people you know or more casual correspondence, use a comma after the greeting name.
Avoid Common Errors
When writing an email, the following errors happen sometimes when people rush to dash off a message quickly. Take the time to review your message and perform the following steps.
Add the email address last. If you don’t have the option to unsend an email, add the address last if you tend to have a quick trigger finger. Insert the recipient’s name only when you’re sure your email is ready to go. Avoid the old “reply all” error. Watch your trigger finger when hitting “Reply All.” Consider whether everyone on the list really needs to read what you have to say. Also, be mindful of older emails in the chain that you might not want someone on the Reply All list to see. Go easy on the humor. Humor can be hard to discern in an email since your tone won’t necessarily shine through. Without body language, facial expression, or cadence, humor can fall flat or even unintentionally insult a reader. Play it safe and leave it out. Proofread. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that people will forgive typos in informal emails or that mistakes will be tolerated if you’re typing on your phone. You may be judged harshly by mistakes in your email, especially if they’re rampant. Don’t rely on a spellchecker which can often choose the wrong word for you. Proofread your emails just like you would any important document. In particular, always check and double-check that you’ve spelled people’s names correctly. Don’t use emojis or emoticons. More and more, email messages have started to resemble text messages. Workplace messages now sometimes include “thumbs-up” emojis or smiley faces. Even though they’re becoming more common, avoid emojis and emoticons in formal correspondence. If your email greeting includes a person’s last name, that’s a sure sign you should leave off emojis and emoticons. Remember that email lasts forever. Think twice before emailing something personal or confidential, firing someone via email, disparaging someone, or answering with anger. Even deleted emails can be resurrected from data backups. Those kinds of interactions might better be done in person. Apply the 24-hour rule. If you’re not sure whether you should send the message, wait until the next day to decide. Another good rule of thumb: Don’t write anything in an email that you wouldn’t be willing to have shared publicly, such as in a deposition, or on social media, for example.
Greetings to Avoid in a Professional Email
The following greetings aren’t appropriate for formal letters or email messages:
- Good Day
- Good Morning or Afternoon (you don’t know when they’ll receive the letter or email message)
- Hi There
- Hey There