How to Start an Email: Best & Worst Greetings

How to Start an Email: The complete guide of do’s and don’ts

Choosing the right salutation for your email messages can be tricky business. In the context of your professional life, you’ll write all kinds of emails. Some of them are formal. Sometimes, you’re writing to a large group of people. At other times, you might not be sure of the recipient’s name. Each email you write offers a unique challenge.

Knowing how to best address people, when they receive hundreds of emails each day, requires finesse. It’s important to start your message in a way that encourages your recipient to keep reading. If you alienate your reader within the first few lines, you may find that your communication doesn’t get the attention it deserves. In fact, your emails might end up in the trash.

Successful people use a small number of friendly, straightforward greetings that work. After considering the situation, they draw from one of their go-to opening lines, choosing the option that’s most likely to elicit a warm response. That’s why we’ve prepared a list of six never-fail introductions.

First, let’s go through some of greetings that you should avoid. These phrases start your email off on the wrong foot.

Greetings to avoid

 

Dear Sir or Madam

When’s the last time you heard someone say “madam” in real life? Chances are—if you’ve heard the word at all—the situation was extremely formal. Now, think of the context of most of your emails. Reading words on a page already distances you from the reader, compared to speaking over the phone or in person. Add to that the fact that you’re not addressing your reader by name. (Whether it’s true or not, avoiding his or her name indicates that you don’t remember it or haven’t bothered to do your research.) So, when you say “Dear sir or madam,” you sound like a very old-fashioned stranger, someone distant from the reader’s day-to-day life.

Good Morning

Email is instantaneous. The minute you send the email, it shows up in another person’s inbox. Of course, that doesn’t mean that he or she will read it right away. When you include time-sensitive greetings, such as “Happy Friday,” “Happy Monday,” “Good evening,” or “Good afternoon,” there’s no telling when your recipient will read your message. Avoid any sense of discord that might result from a stale opening line.

Dear Hiring Manager

This salutation comes across as overly formal. Calling a person by his or her job title feels impersonal and cold. Unless you’re using an honorific, like Judge Smith or Doctor Jones, leave job titles out of your greetings.

Hey there!!! 🙂

Even for an informal greeting, this is far too casual for a business email. It’s best to avoid emojis and excessive use of exclamation points. Also, the word “hey” rubs some readers the wrong way. Since you don’t want to elicit a negative response, you’re better off avoiding “Hey,” “Hey [name],” and “Hey there.” Of course, if you have close friends at work, this might be an appropriate way to say hello. Still, for most strangers or colleagues, you’ll be better served by making another choice.

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To Whom It May Concern

There’s no faster way to indicate that the email below is going to be boring and irrelevant. When you use this greeting, you show that you’ve made no effort to personalize your communication. You’ve left out the person’s name, borrowed a stock phrase, and made the opening line more formal than it needs to be. Why would someone want to keep reading? Even if you’re writing a formal email to a stranger, that doesn’t mean you should waste their time with long formalities. It’s better to say something simple and jump to the heart of your message. 

Using the Wrong Name

Spelling someone’s name wrong is bad news. Giving someone a nickname, when you’re not sure that they use it, can also cause your email to fall flat. Your reader may assume that you’re sloppy or didn’t care enough to get it right. Using an inaccurate marital status or gender sends the wrong message, too. If you’re unsure about a person’s marital status or gender, try to figure it out or opt for another form of address. 

What should you use instead?

Now, let’s go over the perfect way to start your email. Any of these email greetings give you a great place to start when you’re hoping to make a good impression.

Hi [First Name]

It may seem simple, but this is the gold standard for starting an email. For informal emails, it’s appropriate to address the reader by his or her first name. This greeting allows your reader to skim over the introduction and get to the main point of your email.

Hi [— Last Name]

Include an introduction with a last name when you’ve never met the reader before. In the event that you don’t know someone’s gender or preferred prefix, you may want to use their full name. Otherwise, you can use Mr., Mrs., Ms., or another professional prefix. Just be sure that you’re using the correct prefix. You’ll make a bad impression if you guess incorrectly. 

Hi Everyone

When you write an email to a group of people, it’s always appropriate to start with, “Hi everyone.” Don’t use, “Hi guys,” “Hi folks,” “Hi gentlemen,” or “Hi ladies.”

Greetings

In the event that you cannot determine a person’s name, the word “Greetings” is your best bet. Of course, you should do everything you can to track down a name before you defer to this. In the event that you do know the person’s name, you can always choose to write, “Greetings [Name]” to add some flair to your email correspondence. 

Dear [— Last Name]

When you’re trying to set a formal tone from the outset, “Dear [— Last Name]” can be a great introduction. Again, use Mr., Mrs., Ms. [Last Name], or another professional prefix, if you know it. This greeting can be especially useful when you’re writing to someone for the first time. For readers you’ve met before, “dear” might seem a bit too stuffy. 

Hi There

In an informal context, “Hi there” works as a good alternative to “Greetings.” If you’re exchanging emails back and forth in a long thread, “Hi there” also becomes a handy phrase, allowing you to continue the conversation without restating the person’s name over and over again. 

To conclude, keep these six salutations in your toolbox and you’ll never be stuck wondering how to start. No matter what situation you come across in your email writing, you’ll be able to use, “Hi [First Name],” “Hi [— Last Name],” “Hi everyone,” “Greetings,” “Dear [— Last Name],” or “Hi there.” By keeping your greetings simple and clear, you’ll ensure that your professional emails get the attention they deserve. Best of all, your messages won’t end up in the trash bin prematurely. 

Stay away from using pretentious, formal phrases to introduce your emails and be sure that you always get the recipient’s name right. Whenever you follow those rules, you’re off to a great start! As long as you can convince someone to continue reading beyond your introduction, your greeting has done its job. Try to select an opening line that doesn’t distract from the content of your message; instead, you want to encourage the recipient to pay attention. If you’ve written a compelling email and the reader gets beyond your salutation, who knows? You may even receive an email back.

Sources:

  1. https://www.businessinsider.com/the-perfect-way-to-start-an-email-and-greetings-you-should-avoid-2016-5
  2. https://sparkmailapp.com/professional-email-template
  3. https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/here-is-the-perfect-way-to-start-an-email-and-18-greetings-you-should-usually-avoid-a7029606.html?amp

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