Professional Email Salutations: Tips and Examples

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 25 August 2020

The way that you begin a work-related email can determine how your business relationship starts or continues. You should use formal salutations when creating professional business emails. To decide which salutation to use, you need to think about who you are contacting, how well you know them and why you are sending them an email. In this article, we look at different types of email salutations and the factors to consider when choosing one.

What are salutations?

A salutation is the opener of your email or letter. It addresses the recipient directly by name or title. Examples include 'Dear Dr Morgan', 'Hello Ms Amal' and 'Greetings Sidney'. Opening with a professional and appropriate salutation shows respect for the person you are communicating with, whether you are emailing a prospective client or sending a cover letter to a potential employer.

Factors to consider before writing an email salutation

Here are the factors you should consider that can affect your email salutation:

The tone you intend to set

Determine the intention of your email before you write it. It sets the tone for the entire message, including the email salutation. You can create a sense of urgency with the tone you choose, or you might have a more casual and friendly tone instead. For example, you might say 'Hello Susan' as a greeting for a casual email, but for something with a more formal tone, you might start with 'Dear Ms Thomas' instead.

Your relationship with the recipient

Think about your relationship with the recipient. If you have never communicated with that person before, use a formal and professional salutation. If someone referred you to the recipient, you can use a professional tone with a hint of familiarity since they do not know you but might be more open to responding than they would to a complete stranger.

If you know the recipient of the email, you should come across as professional but friendly. The extent of your friendliness depends on your relationship. If they are a friend or coworker, you can choose a less formal salutation, but you should pick something more professional for a supervisor or hiring manager, for example.

The format of the message

Email formats exist in many forms. They include marketing emails, business letters, letters of introduction and company memos. Others include newsletters, congratulatory messages and follow-up emails. The format you choose can help you determine which email salutation you should use.

Consider a sales letter, for instance. It needs to be friendly yet confident. However, these letters usually target people you have never met, so you must still maintain some formality. One way to maintain this balance might be to start with 'Dear' to be professional but use their first name to make it feel more personal.

Where to find contact information

There may be times when you want to send a message to a company but don't know who you should contact. You might also know the title of the person to contact but have no idea what their name or gender is.

Knowing the specific contact details of the recipient and their job title enables you to choose the most suitable salutation when you email them. Thankfully, the internet has made it easier to find this kind of information. Here are some resources you can use to find the recipient's contact details:

  • Company websites

  • Online professional networks

  • Search engines and social media

  • Call the company

Company websites

Organisations with company websites usually have a 'Contact Us' section. This section typically includes the ways you can communicate with relevant company employees. Look at the list of employees and their roles, and you may be able to figure out who to contact. For example, if you want to contact a company's hiring manager, you can learn their name and email on the organisation's website.

Online professional networks

In this digital era, professionals can access many online networking platforms. These platforms have a search bar that you can use to find information on your intended recipient. Many professionals include an email address that you can reach them through. You can search for an individual based on their role in the workplace, the company that they work for or their name.

Search engines and social media

You can use major online search engines to get information about your target recipient. There may be media mentions of that person with the details of how to contact them, or you might be able to find them through social media. Facebook is an especially good tool to use because many companies have Facebook groups for their employees.

Call the company

If you cannot find a person's name or email address online, reach out to their company directly to figure out how to contact the individual. Make sure to explain who you are and why you are calling so the person who answers the call can help you.

Good email salutation examples

If you do not know which email salutation to choose, you have several options. Some are more formal than others, and you can use a colon at the end of the salutation if you want to increase the formality even more. However, a comma is better if you want a friendlier professional salutation. Here are some common email salutations to consider:

  • Dear

  • Hi or hello

  • Greetings

  • No formal salutation

Dear

Use 'Dear' when you know your email recipient's name. You can use the first name only if you know the person quite well and have communicated or worked with them before. However, if you have a more formal relationship, you should use their first and last name or their title and last name.

If the recipient has a specific title, such as 'Captain', 'Rabbi' or 'Professor', you should include it in the salutation. It shows that you respect their accomplishments. If you are unsure of the marital status of your female recipients, avoid using 'Miss' or 'Mrs'. In general, it is usually better to use 'Ms'.

Hi or hello

Starting an email with 'Hi' or 'Hello' is less formal than 'Dear'. You can use 'Hello' alone when addressing a department or emailing recipients without a personal email address. For example, if you are sending an email to info@company.com, hello is an appropriate greeting.

'Hi' works well if you know the person you are sending the email to. If you have formed a friendly business relationship with a client or supplier, you can start an email by saying hi. However, make sure to include their name in the salutation to show respect and professionalism.

Greetings

Use the term 'Greetings' when emailing people with whom you have a limited relationship. It also works if you do not know the recipient's name. It is a casual salutation that sets a friendly tone even if you have not yet been introduced to the individual. Use it when cold pitching or cold emailing a potential client.

No formal salutation

When addressing a group of people, you don't need to include a formal salutation. Instead, open the email with a subject line or title in all caps. Then, create the email body as if you used a formal salutation. This is an acceptable practice in the business world.

Email salutation examples to avoid

Some email salutations, when used for business communication, may offend your recipient. Always aim to be respectful of the recipient and your relationship with them.

Here are some examples of email salutations to avoid:

  • Dear sir or madam

  • Hey

  • To whom it may concern

  • Anything with an exclamation point

  • Gendered terms

Dear sir or madam

It is tempting to use 'Sir' or 'Madam' as part of your email salutation if you think you know the person's gender. However, you could potentially be wrong, and this could offend your recipient. It is also considered a very outdated greeting.

Hey

'Hey' is very informal and not typically appropriate for business emails. Reserve it for personal emails to friends and family instead. It is very casual, and you should avoid using it to address people like your supervisors or clients.

To whom it may concern

You may use 'To whom it may concern' as a salutation when communicating with a recipient you do not know, but it is better to invest in the effort to find the recipient's name. Even if you are not sure who you are addressing, a salutation like 'Greetings' may still be a better option.

Anything with an exclamation point

Using an exclamation point after a salutation works if you want to email someone you have a good relationship with. It creates urgency and shows excitement. However, you should avoid exclamation marks in your salutations for more professional emails, such as when contacting potential employers.

Gendered terms

Avoid using gendered terms like 'guys' as part of your salutations. It assumes every recipient belongs to the gender you refer to.

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