The opening lines of an email are incredibly important. Think about it. All of us have hundreds of emails coming in each day. Some of them contain important business content, some have coupons, and, worst of all, some contain schemes and scams that could put our online accounts in danger. The first sentence of an email plays a crucial role, helping us to learn more about the sender and the content within the email.
So, what does, “I hope you’re doing well” or “I hope this finds you well,” tell us? Not much. That’s why, when you write an email, we recommend replacing stock phrases with something more substantive. On a phone call, you would immediately identify yourself. Why not do that in an email, too?
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If you’re writing to someone you know, it can be helpful to give them context for how you know each other. This is a handy strategy for both personal and business emails.
Here are a few examples of ways that you can jog someone’s memory within the first line of an email:
Greetings from Sarah, your niece Lindsey’s daughter; I’m writing to make sure that you have all the supplies you’ll need to shelter-in-place during the coronavirus pandemic.
Last year, we corresponded about your post on LinkedIn, so I wanted to let you know that I’ve launched my own company!
After meeting you at the conference last week in New York, I’ve been looking forward to sharing the resources we discussed.
In all of these email opening lines, the sender establishes a personal connection to the recipient right from the beginning. Exchanging pleasantries and a bit of small talk can be beneficial; however, the most important information must be conveyed first. As you can imagine, it’s essential to identify yourself. You can’t assume that someone knows who you are from your email address alone.
If You’re Responding to an Ongoing Thread
In certain situations, such as writing to a close coworker or a loved one, you don’t need to be so formal. For example, if you’ve been in email communication with your entire team in a thread over the past fifteen days, it’s not necessary to identify yourself. Instead, stating the purpose of your email could be a great way to begin. Ask yourself, why does this message require an email, rather than a group chat or direct message? Be respectful of your coworkers’ time—only add messages of substance to an ongoing conversation.
I’m writing to provide a few additional resources to help us come to a decision.
I’ve attached the documents you requested.
That’s a great idea, and it made me think of this list of priorities we put together last May.
If You’re Writing to Someone You Don’t Know
“A cold email” is another name for a professional email written to a stranger. Many articles, such as this one from Sales Hacker, share tips for improving response rates on cold emails. Most sales strategists recommend personalizing emails as much as possible. You can research to find unique information about your recipients, explain how you’re connected to them, or otherwise work to establish common ground. Rather than wishing people “good health,” ask whether they plan to go to a professional conference or whether they’ve read a trade-related article.
Here are a few examples of opening lines that work:
I saw your tweet about the new county guidelines, and I wanted to share some best practices with you.
I met one of your interns, Bob Norton, at a conference; he suggested that I reach out to you.
When I saw that you follow my company on social media, I realized that we should connect.
All of these opening lines give a recipient context, helping him or her understand that your email isn’t SPAM. Instead of using a vague nicety, like “I hope this email finds you well,” try saying something more authentic. Make a connection based on shared interests or common acquaintances. By respecting your reader’s time and avoiding filler content, you will always make a stonger first impression.
I’m an award-winning playwright with a penchant for wordplay. After earning a perfect score on the Writing SAT, I worked my way through Brown University by moonlighting as a Kaplan Test Prep tutor. I received a BA with honors in Literary Arts (Playwriting)—which gave me the opportunity to study under Pulitzer Prize-winner Paula Vogel. In my previous roles as new media producer with Rosetta Stone, director of marketing for global ventures with The Juilliard School, and vice president of digital strategy with Up & Coming Media, I helped develop the voice for international brands. From my home office in Maui, Hawaii, I currently work on freelance and ghostwriting projects.