In this brave new world of personalized communications, what's the appropriate way to begin an email? Is "Dear" still the gold standard, or has that gone the direction of the dinosaurs? And how about "Hey?" Does that have any place in a business email?
Email etiquette in 2020, like everything else, is continually evolving. But one thing hasn't changed: you should still start all your emails with a greeting.
Greetings set the tone of your email. They influence how your audience perceives you. And they can even define whether people read your messages or trash them.
So don't skip the salutations. Capitalize on your opportunity to make an excellent first impression in all of your professional email communications!
The caveat is that context is king. Greetings that come across as fun and lively to your friends can make you sound disrespectful and impolite to your company's higher-ups. Formal greetings can make you look stiff and unapproachable to your coworkers.
To choose a proper email greeting, start with the following questions:
1. Are you writing to one person or an entire group?
If your email has 1-3 recipients, greet everyone by name. Everybody appreciates being recognized by name, and it sets a tone of inclusion and respect. If you're emailing a larger group, use a friendly yet generic greeting such as "Hi everyone," or "Hi team."
2. What's your relationship with the recipient? How well do you know this person? What level of formality do you have with each other?
A personalized greeting should be your default option. If you're emailing someone you don't know, try your best to ferret out a name by searching on LinkedIn or Google. If you can't find a name, though, go with a generic email greeting.
Seven Email Greetings You Should Consider Using
1. Hi [Name],
These days, this simple and friendly greeting is your go-to choice except for the most formal occasions.
2. Hello [Name],
"Hello" is still friendly, but it's a bit more formal than "Hi." This greeting falls between the breezy "Hi" and the official "Dear."
3. Dear [Name],
This is typically a more formal way to begin a professional email. It's appropriate for an initial email, but if you keep using it in a long email chain, it might sound stuffy and repetitive. Therefore, you have permission to ditch the "Dear" after the first email and use "Hello" in subsequent emails.
4. Dear Mr./Ms./Dr./Professor [Last name],
If you're writing to someone that you don't know well or who is high above you in the feeding chain, use "Dear" followed by an honorific or a title and the person's last name. For example, you'd say, "Dear Ms. Espinosa," or "Dear Professor Spitfire." Using a colon instead of a comma ups the formality factor.
People are beginning to put their preferred pronouns in their email signatures, which is especially helpful for gender-ambiguous and foreign names. If you're not sure of a person's gender, though, leave out the honorific and use the full name—for instance, "Dear Diamond Malone."
As a rule, it's also best to avoid honorifics that imply marital status like "Mrs." While addressing a woman, use "Ms." instead unless the woman has made abundantly clear that she prefers "Mrs."
When you don't know a person's name, you can start your email with "Greetings." But this option is mid-way down the list for a reason. It's best to find out the recipient's name and personalize your salutation.
6. Hi there,
Use this salutation as an alternative to "Greetings" when you're unsure about a recipient's name. "Hi there" is inappropriate for formal emails, however.
7. Hi everyone,
If you're writing to a group of people, this email salutation works well. However, for three or fewer recipients, the best practice is to address everyone by name. "Hi Marco, Sally, and Sofia," sets everyone in a better frame of mind than "Hi everyone."
Ten Email Greetings You Shouldn't Use
This greeting is too casual for business emails. Restrict it to your friends and close acquaintances.
Again, this is way too casual. Would you be receptive to a business proposal or partnership request that started with "Yo"? Neither would your recipient.
3. Hi [Nickname],
If you're writing to Jessica, don't take the liberty of calling her by the nickname of Jess. However, if she signs off with Jess, she's essentially permitted you to address her this way. Under those circumstances, using a nickname is good business practice.
4. To Whom It May Concern,
You want to be gender-neutral, and this greeting seems to check that box. However, it sounds cold and old-fashioned. It also looks like you're clueless about who you're writing to and why you're writing. The person who opens such an email may well assume it doesn't concern him or her.
5. Dear Sir/Madam,
This gender-inclusive greeting suffers from the same problems as "To Whom It May Concern." It's way too formal and generic, and it proves you haven't done your research to find out who the recipient is.
6. Dear [Job title],
This one is better than "To Whom It May Concern" and "Dear Sir/Madam" because it's more specific. However, dear hiring managers, like everyone else, respond more positively when addressed by name.
7. Good morning/afternoon!
Although it might be the morning or afternoon for you, you don't know when your recipient will read your email. It's better to avoid mentioning the time of day in your salutation, especially when your communication is with someone from a different time zone.
8. [Name], or [Name]!
An email greeting with just a name comes across as rude. It's even worse if you use an exclamation mark. You get points for using the person's name, but make your greeting sound friendlier and more respectful by preceding a name with "Hi," "Hello," or "Dear."
9. A wrong or misspelled name
You get no points at all for this one. Always double-check people's names before emailing them. If you don't know how to spell a name, stick to a generic greeting like "Hi there." Generic is better than personalized but (potentially) misspelled.
If you're sending an email to multiple people, make sure you're not writing, "Hi Judy," in your email to Julia. The wrong name is worse than no name at all.
10. No greeting
Selecting the best email greeting can be a little complicated, but that doesn't mean you should omit it. For business emails, a salutation is essential, and it's bad etiquette to skip it.
A well-chosen business email greeting creates a favorable first impression. Select one based on your relationship with your recipient and the context of your message. You can change your greeting as your relationship with the recipient evolves.
If you're in doubt about which email greeting to use, go over the points above and pick one that's as personalized as possible.