How to Start an Email: 25+ Professional Greetings to Use (With Examples) [2020]

Sending emails with proper business etiquette is an important part of daily professional life. Emails can be sent to colleagues, customers, clients, and other outside parties to gather information or relay information. McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) reports that 28% of the average workweek is spent reading and answering emails.

A proper and concise start of an email solicits a response from the reader or recipient. Hubspot’s Mike Renahan reports that “the ideal length of an email is between 50 and 125 words.” And goes on to say that “emails this length had a response rate above 50%.” Meaning a lengthy introduction to a professional email could risk receiving a response. Additionally, improper greeting use can suggest a lack of business writing experience.

Inc.com’s Jaquelyn Smith suggests proper business etiquette rules for sending professional emails should include “a clear and direct subject line, the use of a professional email address, including a professional email signature, using professional salutations, using exclamation points sparingly, and to proofread every message.”

How to Start an Email

The beginning of any business email should contain the following:

  • A greeting. Start the professional email with a nice greeting. Depending on the reason or amount of recipients of the email, the greeting should vary. In a formal email, use the recipients given last name or surname. In an informal email, like an email between colleagues, use the recipient's first name.
  • A transition. The opening sentence or “first sentence” of the email. This may be well wishes if the recipient has not received an email from the recipient in a long time. For example, “Hope you had a great weekend.” Or use a reminder of how the recipient and sender are connected. For example, “I hope you remember meeting me at XOXO Conference in 2018.”
  • Reason for writing. Keep the email concise and use the email introduction to inform the reader of the reason for writing and the goal for the email.

Be sure to:

  • Spell names correctly. Spell the names of all recipients being addressed in the email correctly.
  • Use spell-check. An email with improper spelling and grammar can look unprofessional and lack the urgency of the email to the reader.
  • Use active voice style writing. Use active voice style writing. This is a professional, formal, and direct tone for the reader.
  • Be relevant. Remember who the recipients are, and the intention of the email. Make clear remarks that the audience can respond to easily.

Accompany this with a brief body paragraph, closing paragraph, and email ending to write an effective professional email. Starting a business letter is a similar practice and should include a greeting (or salutation), an introduction paragraph, a body paragraph, a closing paragraph, and a professional sign-off.

Email Greeting List

An email greeting (or salutation to be precise) is used in a letter or other written or non-verbal written communication. The most common form of salutation in the English language is “Dear,” followed by the recipient’s given name or title.

When choosing a greeting, it’s always best to address the recipient by name rather than using a generic greeting. Using the recipient’s name (or person’s name) suggests that the email has been authored for the recipient. A formal greeting can use the recipient’s name. Instead of using their first name, use a surname or last name prefaced by “Mr,” “Miss,” or “Mrs.”

When emailing one person:

  • Hi [Name],
  • Good morning [Name],
  • Good afternoon [Name],
  • Hello [Name],
  • [Name],
  • Dear Mr/Mrs [Last Name],

When writing to more than one person:

  • Hello all,
  • Hello everyone,
  • Good morning,
  • Good afternoon,
  • Good evening,
  • Hi there,
  • Hi team,
  • All,

When writing an unknown recipient:

  • Dear [Team Name],
  • Dear [Job Title],
  • Dear CEO,
  • Dear Hiring Manager,
  • Hi there,
  • Greetings,
  • Hello,

A proper email greeting should always be followed by a formal style writing of the body paragraph. When writing a formal letter, business letter, or professional email, use active-voice style writing. Grammarly.com defines active voice as having “a strong, direct, and clear tone.” Formal writing should always be used in business correspondence.

Business correspondence includes emailing colleagues, writing an email to a client (or potential client), writing legal emails (or letters), when writing emails with business or professional email addresses (a generic formal setting), or when authoring a business letter (a cover letter, letter of recommendation or reference letter). This includes the writing of an email message that’s on behalf of a business (as an employee).

Informal emails would be classified as an email sent between friends, who don’t work together. For example, an email to a close friend regarding dinner times.

Examples of Starting an Email

When applying for a job:

Dear Hiring Manager —

I’m writing this email to submit my application for the position of Product Designer...

When scheduling a meeting:

Hi everyone —

I’d love to schedule a meeting to discuss...

After having a meeting:

Hi everyone —

Thank you for your time yesterday...

When introducing new teammates:

Dear Sarah and Jeff —

I’d love to introduce you two...

When accepting a job offer:

Dear Mr. Johnson —

I’m pleased to be sending this email accepting the job offer of Product Designer...

When replying to a group:

Hi all —

I’d like to recommend that we meet about this matter...

When introducing yourself:

Hi Jeff —

If you recall, we met at XOXO Conference in 2018...

When sending an email newsletter:

Dear group —

This week's email newsletter reviews a major email marketing service provider and email marketing software...

When sending email marketing or an email campaign:

Dear Jeff —

You’re receiving this email as part of an email campaign you signed up for on Facebook...

When sending a cold email:

Dear Mrs. Speckle —

I’m writing you this email after reading your blog...

When writing a welcome email:

Dear Marketing Team —

I’d like to introduce myself and say hello to you all...

When writing n email to a professor or teacher:

Dear Professor Jenkins —

I'm very passionate about your course, and I'd love to speak with you regarding extra credit...

When writing an email to a supervisor, manager, or boss:

Dear Jeffrey —

I'd love to speak with you regarding the marketing project you discussed on Wednesday, July 10th...

Colon or Comma After the Greeting

When writing a formal letter, there are three options for the punctuation to use after the salutation. A colon, a comma, and an em dash (—). The use of a comma is most common in the English language. It looks like this:

Dear Mr. Smith,

While the colon looks like this:

Dear Mr. Smith:

Both are acceptable forms of separating the greeting from the initial paragraph or opening paragraph in the business letter, cover letter, or another formal letter. Improper use of the separator can be considered a small formality but a key indicator for the reader. For example, in a job application, this may indicate to the reader that the author has poor verbal writing skills. Use either the comma or semicolon when deciding between punctuation separators.

Email Greetings to Avoid

Avoid these commonly used greetings:

  • To Whom It May Concern: Lacks personality, customization, and a choice not to spend time researching the recipient’s name.
  • Dear Sir or Madam: Considered poor business etiquette to use as it implies the recipient’s name is unknown and falsely suggests a preferred gender of the recipient.
  • I Hope This Email Finds You Well: A generic greeting that is frequently used when the recipient's name is unknown. This generic greeting can trigger an email readers' spam filtering technology.
  • Hey/Yo/What’s Up: These would be an informal greeting. And don’t suggest a professional email has been authored. Variations of these informal introductions include “Hey guys” or “What’s up guys!”

How to Write a Professional Email

Here's what to consider when writing a professional email.

Consider the target audience

It's best to consider the target audience and email recipient. Think about who they are, what they want, what they might be expecting to read, or what they want to read. Asking these questions can ensure that a shorter email is produced and increases the chances that the email will be responded to.

This practice is considered empathy. If writing an email to a client or customer, this practice should be heavily considered before writing an email of any kind.

Avoid writing to the group

It's a common mistake to write a "Reply All" email but when write to only one person in the group. Let's presume that the email is a personal message, then all of the other email recipients received the message as well. This act can create a slightly "embarrassing" scenario for everyone involved. Consider who the email should be going to and double-check that a "Reply All" mishap isn't going to happen.

Use an active voice writing style

Active voice style writing is defined as having a "strong, direct, and clear tone." The more clear and definitive an email message is, the better it will be understood by a reader.

Have a purpose

Email should have a purpose. Whether writing an email to be used in an email list (for marketing purposes) or writing an email for a professional job application. Consider the email purpose and be sure there's a clear "call to action" in the email. The email should contain information, insights, and asks that make the recipient want to respond or engage with the email.

Make the intention of the email clear

Using as little words as possible, write a clear message. A clear email message has a higher likelihood of receiving a response. Think clearly about how the recipient might interpret the message and be sure there is a clear intention behind what the email is about.

Start the email with the information

It's best to "cut to the chase" with an email. Get into the purpose of the email as soon as possible. Either inform the reader of the information they requested. Or gather the appropriate information from them.

Be sincere

Kindness is well received when it comes to email messages. Consider how a phrase or word might be misinterpreted. Be sure to consider the misinterpretation opportunity before sending it.

Say something nice at the end

Say a nice thing at the end of the email. Thank them for their time and show appreciation for them responding to the email or request within the email.

Consider time spent reading the email

If writing a long email, consider the time that is going to be spent by the recipient reading that email. Consider what the original purpose of the email is and whether or not it can be reduced in the word count. A long email, while sometimes necessary, has a steep ask: time. If the email is important and it's important the recipient read through the email in its entirety, consider the length of the email.

Don't forget a great subject line

The email subject line should align with the purpose of the email. Make sure the subject line is simple, clear, and short in length. The shorter the email subject line, the higher likelihood the recipient is going to open the email. Be sure to coordinate the purpose, information, or "asks" in the email with the subject line.

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.

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