Business Letter and Business Email Salutations [Updated]

by Mary Cullen on Mon, Jan 23, 2017

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 (learn more about our courses here). 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.

Base Your Salutation Choice Directly on Your Recipient, (Especially 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 Janet:
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 Andrew,
Dear Pastor Amanci,
(Social business letters address congratulations, thanks, condolences or other non-business related issues.)


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Formality Tips

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, use a first name only.

Dear Karen:

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 Principal:
Dear Tax Adjuster:
Dear Parent:

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:

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, 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:

Hi David,
Hello David,
Good morning, David, (If you are certain David will read this email 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 work pals. "Hey" is too casual in wider business use.)

You can also incorporate the person’s name in the opening of the message:

You’re right, David. I forgot.

Learn more about business email:

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Topics: Business Writing Skills

Mary Cullen

About the author

Mary Cullen

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, a M.A in English Literature from Boston College, and a C.A.G.S. in Composition and Rhetoric from the University of New Hampshire.

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