Practically every email or letter you write should begin with a salutation. Whether you are writing for business or for personal reasons, a salutation immediately sets the tone for the rest of message. Choosing the correct salutation is especially important when submitting a resume, reaching out to a prospective client, or any other professional situation where you need to make a positive first impression.
For formal emails and letters, especially ones where you do not know the recipient well or at all, you should use some variation of Dear [name]:. For short, direct business emails, you can usually get away with addressing the recipient by just his or her name.
Dear Mr. Roberts:
Dear Dr. Smith:
When you don’t know the identity of the intended the recipient of a business email or letter, begin the email/letter with To whom it may concern:. This salutation should be used only when you are unable to determine the name, title, or position of the recipient. If you have any other way of formally addressing the recipient, you should use that in your salutation instead.
Less formal emails and letters allow for a much greater variety of salutations. We’ve provided several examples below. As with many aspects of modern English, which salutations you should use and the situations under which you should use them are highly context dependent. For example, you could use an informal salutation to address a friend who you know well or a coworker who you have a close working relationship with. On the other hand, you should address a coworker who you do not know well or a manager several levels above you with a formal salutation.
The general rule is that you should not open a letter or email to a colleague or superior in a way that would be unacceptable to address him or her in person. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and use a formal salutation.
Dear Jane, (The comma replaces the colon found in formal salutations.)
Good morning, students,