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Business, Communication, Email Writing

Salutations: How to Greet Someone in an Email (Part One)

A salutation is a polite way to greet someone at the start of a letter or email.

When you send an email, the salutation you use can make a strong impression on the person who is reading it. It sets the mood for the entire email. Do you want to greet someone professionally? Or will a more casual, friendly salutation work? A lot of this depends on your particular workplace, culture, or situation. Here are some general guidelines to help you start a business email the right way.

First, let’s look at how to write a formal salutation.

A formal salutation is your best choice when you are writing to someone you don’t know, or if you are writing to someone in a senior position at a business, university, or organization. You want to sound professional and make a strong, solid impression. Starting an email with “Yo, Chucky!” or “Hey, Boo,” is fine if you are writing to a friend, but your boss or the admissions officer at your dream school will probably not be impressed.

When writing most formal emails, start with “Dear”.

Unless you are certain that you are on a first-name basis with the email recipient, use “Mr.” or “Ms.” followed by the person’s last name. If the recipient has a particular title, such as Doctor, Professor, Judge, Pastor, President, etc., use that. End your salutation with a comma.

Here are some examples:

Dear Mr. Jones,

Dear Ms. Lopez,

Dear Professor Park,

Dear Judge Collins,

Dear Dr. Patel,

Note: If you are writing to someone where UK English is used instead of US English, don’t put a period after abbreviations that include the first and last letter of the shortened word (e.g., “Mr”, “Mrs”, or “Dr”).

Dear Mr Johnson,

Dear Ms Greenberg,

Dr Smith,

What if you don’t know if someone is a “Mr.” or a “Ms.”?

Let’s say that you are contacting someone named Taylor Brown at ABC Company, but you don’t know Taylor’s gender. You could try to find out using Google, LinkedIn, or social media. If that doesn’t work, just use “Dear” followed by the first name and then the last name:

Dear Taylor Brown,

What if you are sending an email to someone whose name you don’t know?

You can still send a polite salutation, even if you don’t know the name of the person who will be receiving your email. The following are two standard salutations that are used in professional situations:

To Whom It May Concern,

Dear Sir or Madam,

If you know the person’s title or position, you can also use that.

Dear Editor,

Dear Land Owner,

Dear Director,

Now let’s look at salutations for less formal emails.

If you are on a first-name basis with a colleague, or even a boss/supervisor, you would feel odd addressing them as “Dear Mr. Chan” or “Dear Ms. Davidson”. In this case, “Dear” followed by the person’s first name is appropriate. You might even want to use “Hello” or “Hi” in place of “Dear”.

Dear Patrick,

Hello Sue,

Hi Maria,

After the salutation, what comes next?

Once you have written your salutation, go to the next line on the page and start writing the body of your text. Be sure to start your opening sentence with a capital letter. In other words, your email should look like this:

Dear Professor Yu,

Could I speak to you tomorrow after class? I have a few questions about our upcoming exam.

What if you are writing an email to two or more people?

We will address that topic soon!

In the meantime, you can leave a comment or visit http://TextRanch.com. Our team of editors will be happy to help you with your business emails and other texts.

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3 Replies to Salutations: How to Greet Someone in an Email (Part One)

  1. Can we write “Dear All,” in formal salutation, if there are multiple people (known, unknown) in the list who will be receiving our email?

    1. A more specific greeting (such as “Dear Board of Directors”) is preferable, but “Dear All” is correct and appropriate for the situation you described. We will be publishing a new article that addresses your question very soon!

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