How do you start an email? Is it better to address a person by their first or last name? Do you still need "Dear Sir or Madam" in 2020? Should you bother about greetings at all? Don’t overlook the power of email salutations. Your email greeting sets the tone of your communication, influences how a recipient perceives you, and even defines if a person reads your message or instantly moves it to Trash.
Email greetings are all about the context of your message. What is appropriate for your friends, can cost you a job interview at a big company. What is polite and respectful for your university professor, can make you sound stiff and old fashioned for your fellow coworkers.
Answer these questions to select a proper email greeting:
- Am I writing to one person or to a group? If there are 1-3 recipients, you can greet everybody by their name. For more people, you can use generic greetings like "Hi everyone" or "Hi team."
- What is my relationship with a recipient? How well do you know this person? What is the level of formality between you?
Below, you'll find the best email greetings, both personal and generic ones. A personalized salutation is your best choice. When you're emailing someone you don't know, always do your best to find out their name. Their company’s website or LinkedIn page can help you with this task. If your research wasn't successful, a generic email greeting can back you up.
7 Email Greetings to Use
This simple and friendly greeting, is the best and safest choice, except for the most formal occasions.
You can use "Hello" instead of "Hi" to make your email greeting a little more formal. This salutation stands somewhere in between the cheerful "Hi" and official "Dear."
This greeting is a more formal way to start a professional email. "Dear" is appropriate for an initial email, but it may sound stuffy and repetitive if you add it to every message in a long email chain. In subsequent emails, you can use "Hello" instead.
Dear Mr./Ms./Dr./Professor [Last name],
If you're writing a formal email to a respectable person, use "Dear" followed by an honorific or a title and a person's last name. E.g., "Dear Mr. Smith," or "Dear Professor Green." For the most formal correspondence, you can use a colon instead of a comma after the salutation. For example:
Dear Ms. Black:
When you're not sure about a person's gender, omit an honorific and use their full name in your salutation. E.g., "Dear Finley Brown."
It's also safer to avoid honorifics that imply marital status like "Mrs." While addressing a woman, use "Ms." instead.
If you're going to email your professor, our guide can help you.
If you don't know a person's name, it's appropriate to address them with "Greetings." But we strongly recommend you to find out the recipient's name and personalize your salutation.
You can use it as an alternative to "Greetings" when you're not sure about a recipient's name. Just keep in mind "Hi there" may not be appropriate for formal emails.
This email greeting works well when you're writing to a group of people. However, when there are 3 or fewer recipients, you can address everyone by their name. E.g., "Hi Sandy, Tom, Mark."
10 Email Greetings to Avoid
There's no place for such a greeting in business emails. Just leave this greeting for your friends and close acquaintances.
Would you be happy to receive a business proposal or partnership request addressing you with "Yo"? So does your recipient.
If you're writing to Jessica, don't take a responsibility to call her Jess. At the same time, if she signs off with Jess, you should also address her that way.
To Whom It May Concern,
This email greeting sounds too cold and archaic. It also feels like you have no idea who you're writing to and why you're doing it at all. There's a good chance a person who opens such email assumes it doesn't concern them.
Just like with "To Whom It May Concern," this salutation is a way too formal. Plus it's extremely generic. Such an email greeting proves that you haven't done your research to find out who the recipient actually is.
Dear [Job title],
Compared to "To Whom It May Concern" and "Dear Sir/Madam," this greeting is a bit more specific. Anyway, a "Dear Hiring Manager" won't be happy that you haven't taken an extra step to find out their name.
You don't know when a person is going to read your email so such greetings are better to avoid, especially if you're communicating with someone from a different time zone.
[Name], or [Name]!
An email greeting with just a name looks abrupt and even rude. An exclamation mark makes it even worse. A recipient may feel as if you're about to shout at them.
Wrong or misspelled name
Always double-check a person's name before emailing them. If you're not sure how to spell a name, it's safer to use a generic greeting like "Hi there." This does far less harm than sending an email with a typo.
If you're emailing multiple people at once, make sure you're not writing "Hi Mark," in your email to Johnny. Otherwise, it would be difficult to prevent disaster and recover your reputation.
Though choosing the best email greeting can be tricky, that doesn't mean you can omit it. A salutation is an essential part of a professional email, and it's impolite to skip it.
We've looked through the best email greetings for different situations and the ones you'll want to avoid. The choice of an email salutation depends on your relationship with a recipient and the context of your message.
If you're in doubt as to which email greeting to use, stick to a more formal version. However, don't put a chosen greeting in every message mechanically. When a person writes back and greets you with "Hi," you can go more casual as well to match their style. It would look odd to keep using "Dear Mr. .." in your emails.
Tip: Before writing a professional email to someone, check their organization's website and social media pages to see what language they use. Try to match the tone of your email to their communication style. For example, if a company uses emojis and memes on its website, don't make your email overly formal.
After selecting an email greeting, check our step-by-step guide on how to write a professional email. It will help you craft emails people actually read and act on.
If you want to make emailing more fun and pleasant, try our email client Spark. We've built it to make people love their email again and spend less time managing their inboxes.