Business Letter and Business Email Salutations
Dear Reader: Dear Reader, Hi Reader, Good afternoon, Reader: Hey Reader! Are you confused about shaping salutations in business letters and business email?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions in business writing courses. To begin, let’s clarify which documents use a salutation:
* A business letter communicates information outside the organization and requires a salutation.
* A business memo communicates information inside an organization, and does not include a salutation.
* A business email communicates information both inside and outside an organization, and in most cases should include a salutation on the first message at least.
You should base your choice of salutation directly on your recipient, particularly your relationship with that recipient.
The standard salutation for a business letter is the salutation Dear, followed by the person’s name and sometimes a title, closing with a colon.
Dear Ms. Reader:
Dear Attorney Adams:
The standard salutation for a more social business letter, or personal letter is the salutation Dear, followed by the person’s name and sometimes a title, closing with a comma.
Dear Ms. Writer,
Dear Pastor Amanci,
(Social business letters address congratulations, thanks, condolences or other non-business related issues.)
If you do not know a person well, or are making first contact, it is always best to lean towards formality, if in doubt. Use a title and a last name.
Dear Mr. Sancheza:
Dear Dr. Amanci:
If you know the recipient well, use a first name only.
If you do not know the person’s name, try to find it. If it’s impossible to locate, then use a person’s position as salutation.
Dear Tax Adjuster:
To two or more women:
Dear Mrs. Adams, Ms. Kott and Miss Connor (using the title you know each prefers. If you do not know a recipient’s preferred title, use the neutral title Ms.)
To a woman and a man:
Dear Ms. Fong and Mr. Mendle (List the recipient who is highest in corporate rank first, and alphabetize the order if they are equal in corporate rank.)
To several persons:
Dear Mr. MacDonald, Mrs. Brady and Dr. Mellon:
Hold these same letter standards for a formal email (i.e. one that is functioning like a business letter, such as a first response to a client inquiry, or a sales letter, or a proposal.)
For less formal email, match your salutation and tone to your relationship with the recipient and end the salutation with a comma rather than a colon:
Good morning, David, (If you know for sure David will read this in the morning. See post, Using Time Salutations Carefully for more info.)
Hey David, (Only use the slang term hey for your most informal email with your best pals. It will feel out of place in wider business use.)
You can also incorporate the person’s name in the opening of the message:
You’re right, David. I forgot.
I used The Gregg Reference Manual for verification of these salutation formats, and highly recommend this as a definitive style guide.
I hope this helps clarify your salutations!
About the Author: Mary Cullen
A business writing expert, Mary helps professionals write documents that clearly convey complex information to colleagues and customers.