50 Ways to Start a Professional Email (By Scenario)

how to start a professional email

The way you start your professional email can be indicative of your business etiquette and professional experience. Starting an email incorrectly can erase your entire message or request for information from the recipient. It could make the recipient feel like you aren’t being respectful of them or their time. And could cause them not to want to respond to your message.

Starting a professional or business email is simple. But there are some things you should understand before you start sending too many.

how to start a professional email

Table of Contents

How to Start a Professional Email

The best way to start an email is to include addressing the recipient. This is a line before your email body which contains a greeting. If you are addressing a single person in your email, you may say, “Dear Mr. Smith—“ and then include a line break, along with the rest of your email and a closing salutation.

This is the traditional and formal format for opening up your email message to the recipient for reading.

All greetings should be simple, insightful, and enthusiastic. It can be the worst when you open an email only to feel like the greeting lacks impact. For the reader, this is an indication that the email body will lack impact as well.

Using “—“, “:” or “comma”

There are three ways that professionals tend to separate their email greeting before they begin the body of their email. After your greeting, you have the option of using an em dash, a colon, or a comma. Which one is best?

The best option is to use an em dash. This is the most formal way to create a separator between your email greeting and your email body.

The second best option is to use a comma. This is most commonly used and is absolutely valid when writing a business email, professional email or business letter.

While colons are used as well, it can look like the email was sent using some type of automated messaging system. And this can be a red flag to the reader that the message might not be authentic.

how to start a professional email

Reasons Why You’re Sending This Email

In order to determine which greeting is best to use, you first need to begin by understanding the business scenario you are in. Are you sending the first email to someone you don’t know? Is this a cold email? Is this an email replying to a meeting you had? There’s a variety of reasons.

Here are some of the most common reasons why you might be sending your email:

These are some of the most popular reasons for why you might be sending your email.

Let’s dig into what greetings you can use when sending these types of emails.

You Are Replying to a Professional Email Thread

If you’re part of a professional email thread, and are speaking to a group. Here are a couple of greetings you can use:

You Are Sending a First Email to a Professional You Don’t Know

If you’re sending an email to a professional you don’t know, but they are expecting your email — then these greetings should work. Ideally, in these scenarios, you keep your greeting more formal and simple in terms of how you address the recipient.

In this example, the recipients name is Ryan Smith.

You Are Sending a Cold Email to a Professional You Don’t Know

When you’re sending a cold email to a professional you don’t know, you should start your greeting with a reason for why you’re emailing. It could be a connection that you have. Mutual contacts that you have. Having met at a networking event, or other. Try to jog the recipients memory through this greeting.

You Are Sending a Follow-up to a Business Matter

If you’re following up on a business matter of any kind, try using one of these more formal greetings to make sure that you get a response.

You Are Sending a Formal Letter or Legal Letter

When greeting someone regarding a business matter, legal matter, or something more serious. Try to keep your greeting simple. In fact, if you’d like, you can skip your greeting altogether.

You Are Following-up After a Meeting You Had

If you had a meeting with multiple team members and want to greet everyone properly, there’s a few ways you can jog everyone’s memory of the meeting and make sure they comprehend that the message you’re about to send is regarding that.

You Are Sending an Email to Your Internal Team

When you’re sending an email to your internal team members, you have a little bit more flexibility in being informal. You can make sure that you are addressing people in a personalized way but also showing professionalism.

Here are a few examples.

The Worst Greetings to Use (Avoid These Email Greetings)

These are some of the worst greetings that you can use when starting your professional email. When you use these greetings, the recipient might interpret them as either unprofessional or slightly immature in nature.

Bottom line, you don’t want that reaction from your recipient. And while these greetings may seem friendly and enthusiastic. It’s better to represent yourself in a more professional light and seem formal.

The worst greetings you can use are:

Professional Email FAQ

Questions from professionals about starting emails.

Should my subject line be considered as well?

Yes. A professional email should have a short and informative email subject line that makes the reader want to click in to read the email. Try to avoid making it look like a welcome email, email newsletter, or marketing email. Use the person's name if you can.

What should my opening sentence say?

For a formal email, your opening sentence should be short and descriptive to what the intent of the email is. For an informal email, you can express yourself more and write a little longer of an email.

What should my email signature say?

For a formal setting, like for business, your email signature should contain your name, job title, and contact information. Let's say you're emailing a potential client, you want them to know how to get in touch with you if they need to.

What if I use a generic greeting to open my email?

Something like "To whom it may concern" is an email greeting that might make your email marked as SPAM. Try to use the recipient's name.

How should I start an email if it is an email introduction?

If you're having business correspondence between two professionals, you can use your best judgment to start your email. The best way to it just to say, "This is a formal introduction for X and Y." Then write the rest of your email.

Additional Business Letter Resources

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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