Business Letter and Business Email Salutations [Updated]
Dear Reader: Dear Reader, Hi Reader, Good afternoon, Reader: Hey Reader!
Are you confused about shaping salutations in business letters and business email?
How to start a letter or email 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 should include a salutation on the first message.
Tip: Base your salutation choice directly on your recipient. Especially focus on your relationship with that recipient.
Business Letter Salutations
Salutations can be confusing. We have outlined the best salutations for different situations and relationships. You will find additional information on email salutations in the second half of this article.
The standard business letter
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:
Standard social letter
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.)
Most formal salutations
If you do not know a person well, or are making first contact, it is always best to lean towards formality. Use a title and a last name.
Dear Mr. Sancheza:
Dear Dr. Amanci:
If you know the recipient well
You can use their first name only.
Name not known
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:
Use the title you know each prefers. If you do not know a recipient’s preferred title, use the neutral title Ms.
Dear Mrs. Adams, Ms. Kott, and Miss Connor
To a woman and a man:
List the recipient who is highest in corporate rank first, and alphabetize the order if they are equal in corporate rank.
Dear Ms. Fong and Mr. Mendle
To several persons:
Dear Mr. MacDonald, Mrs. Brady, and Dr. Mellon:
Business Email Salutations
Hold these same letter standards for a business email (i.e. one that is functioning like a business letter, such as a first response to a client inquiry, a sales letter, or a proposal.) For less formal emails use the following guidance.
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,*
* Only use "Good morning, david" if you are certain David will read this email in the morning. See post, Using Time Salutations Carefully for more info.
(Only use the slang term hey for your most informal email with your best work pals. "Hey" is too casual in wider business use.)
Skipping a salutation
In informal situations you can omit a salutation but you can still incorporate the person’s name in the opening of the message:
You’re right, David. I forgot.
More resources about business email:
About the author
Mary founded Instructional Solutions in 1998, and is an internationally recognized business writing trainer and executive writing coach with two decades of experience helping thousands of individuals and businesses master the strategic skill of business writing. She excels at designing customized business writing training programs to maximize productivity, advance business objectives, and convey complex information. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of Rhode Island, an M.A. in English Literature from Boston College, and a C.A.G.S. in Composition and Rhetoric from the University of New Hampshire.