Business Letter and Business Email Salutations [Updated 2023]

Mary Cullen
Post by Mary Cullen
Originally published May 9, 2021, updated December 7, 2023
Business Letter and Business Email Salutations [Updated 2023]

Dear Reader: Dear Reader, Hi Reader, Good afternoon, Reader: Hey Reader!

Are you confused about shaping salutations in business letters and business emails? 

The standard salutation for a business letter is formal and is typically "Dear," followed by the person’s name—and sometimes a title—closing with a colon.

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.

Hint: Use Dear when addressing a cover letter. 

Dear Ms. Reader:
Dear Janet:
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 Andrew,
Dear Pastor Amanci,

(Social business letters address congratulations, thanks, condolences, or other non-business-related issues. It's for more informal correspondence.)

Formal business letter

If you do not know a person well or are making the first contact, it is always best to lean towards a formal salutation. Use a professional title and the last name for your formal letter.

Dear Mr. Sancheza:
Dear Dr. Amanci:

If you know the recipient well

You can use their first name only.

Dear Karen:

Name not known

What if you're addressing an unknown recipient? 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 the salutation.

Dear Principal:
Dear Tax Adjuster:
Dear Parent:

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:

Hi David,
Hello David,
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.

Slang salutations

Hey David,

(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.


Craft the perfect salutation

Whatever type of business correspondence you are completing, adding the proper salutation communicates your level of professionalism. Refer to this list to use the correct salutation, no matter the business situation.

More resources about business email:


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Mary Cullen
Post by Mary Cullen
Originally published May 9, 2021, updated December 7, 2023
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.