Can you select the correct email greeting?

Posted: 22 September 2015 at 11:42 am | Author: Laura Morris

Looking through the latest emails within your inbox and it is likely you will find a variety of greetings. Hi, Hey, Dear, Hello – choosing the right greeting can be a minefield, but can be incredibly important. It could be said it’s the equivalent of a handshake in person!

How you choose to start your email sends a subtle message and sets the expectation for the rest of the email.

The issue is that greetings can be subjective and what might be approved of by one person may not be by another. Personally when I receive a ‘Dear’ email I have two thoughts. If it is from someone I know that is still starting their email with Dear, for some reason I automatically feel like I’m in trouble or they don’t like me very much, perhaps because it seems unnecessarily formal! If I receive a ‘Dear’ email from someone I don’t know then automatically it feels cold and distant so it is unlikely I will be particularly interested.

However this is not the same for everyone. For some using ‘Dear’ denotes respect, for others it conveys a level of fondness. And this is just the alternative feeling individuals have about ‘Dear’ let alone all the other options!

What are your thoughts on ‘Hey’? Unless it is from a person I know really well (and in person, not just via email) then I consider this to be at the other end of the spectrum, too informal and potentially even abrasive. Someone trying to be overly familiar is a real turnoff. ‘Hey’ would certainly be a greeting I would avoid within the world of business emails!

That leaves the other common openings – ‘Hi’ and ‘Hello’. If I’ve spoken to someone on the telephone or if it is a work colleague I would usually opt for a friendly ‘Hi’. I believe that it sets the tone for the email that follows to be warm and friendly – but avoiding the danger of being too familiar.  Starting with a ‘Hello’ could be useful when introducing yourself to someone you haven’t had contact with.

The difficulty is there is no hard and fast uniform rule. You need to choose what you see fit for each individual situation and aim for a greeting comparable to the firm handshake that most prefer when meeting in person.

What are your tips when deciding how to start a business email?

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