If you’ve ever ignored a message because it began with “To Whom It May Concern”, you know just how important it is to start an email in a more personal manner. The same idea goes with an overenthusiastic message – it can seem too “in your face” and might come across as desperate.
It can be a challenge to know how to make a good first impression over email – especially when you’re writing to someone you don’t know very well.
Is “Dear” too formal? Is “Hey” too casual? Is “Happy Monday!” too cheesy?
Email greetings are important, as they set the tone for the whole message and may affect the recipient’s perception of you. It may even determine if they continue to read your email.
In this post, we’ll cover the best ways to begin an email – as well as the worst possible ways that you should steer clear from.
The Best Ways to Start an Email
This email greeting is a clear winner because it’s simple, friendly, and straight to the point. If you need something slightly more formal, try swapping “Hello [Name].”
You could also make the tone a bit more formal by using the person’s last name: “Hi Ms. Smith,…”
Overall, this greeting is certainly the most innocuous and safe way to start an email. It’s a familiar and friendly way to address someone, regardless of whether you know them or not.
If you’re writing to a group of people, it’s best to keep things general. Avoid gender-specific words such as “Ladies” or “Guys.” “Everyone” is safer because it’s a more inclusive way to address multiple people.
Although “Dear” can come across as old-fashioned or stuffy, it works for formal emails. Implement “dear” when you’re addressing a distinguished person who requires a higher degree of respect (e.g., Dear Mayor Adler) and in business dispatches such a cover letter. Use “Dear” followed by an honorific and the last name of the recipient. (Tip: Avoid honorifics that allude to marital status. For example, use Ms. instead of Mrs.)
If you’re sending a mass email or contacting a general mailbox (such as a support address), “Hi there” is fair game.
This greeting also works well when setting up a mail merge with customized name fields. Be sure to only use first names in this scenario – people are more likely to view emails with salutations like “Hi there Alex C. Peters” as spam.
The Worst Ways to Start an Email
If you’re contacting someone you don’t already have a rapport with, don’t assume you call them by a nickname. For example, if you’re recipient’s name is David, don’t assume you can shorten his name to Dave. However, if he replies back to your email and signs off with Dave, it’s fine to address him that way in the future. In fact, it’s safer to stick with the more informal name if it’s clear that he prefers that.
This one is super important – don’t misspell your recipient’s name, ever! Double-check that you have their name right – do a quick LinkedIn search if you have to confirm. If you’re not sure of someone’s name, simply use a nonspecific greeting such as “Hi there.” It’s better to come off as slightly impersonal in the first message than come across as careless or even rude.
Dear Sir or Madam,
This greeting comes across as stiff, too formal, and spammy. It shows the recipient that you didn’t do your research and didn’t bother to personalize your message or learn their name. It’s highly unlikely a recipient would be moved to answer an email addressed like this.
To Whom It May Concern,
The same sentiments expressed above apply to “To Whom It May Concern” as well. Again, it shows that you were too lazy to look up a contact name and specifically address the recipient.
Avoid using this type of greeting with cover letters when applying for jobs. Do your research and seek out the hiring manager’s name, even if that means contacting the company or scouring LinkedIn. If you can’t find their name, “Dear Hiring Manager” works too.
Hey! or Hey, [Name]!
This salutation is best reserved for close friends, colleagues, or family members. Otherwise, it comes across as highly informal and somewhat disrespectful. It may seem like a friendly way to start an email, but when you are in a professional setting, it comes across as “too much.”
Happy Friday!!! Or Happy Monday!
Overly exuberant greetings come across as trying too hard and tend to be viewed as annoying. Leave the cutesy greetings for your close friends and avoid them when corresponding with professional contacts.