Have you ever received an email from someone you don’t know that started with: "Hey, [Name]!!!" First, all those exclamation points are way too chipper, and "Hey" is rather informal from a stranger.
I’ve received emails addressed to, "Dear Ma’am," and felt old and dowdy. Seriously, I’m not old enough to be a Ma’am.
How you open an email, especially to someone you don’t know, is your only chance to make a good first impression. What does it say if you write, "To Whom It May Concern"? I delete those emails. If the author couldn’t take the time to figure out to whom they’re writing, then I don’t have time to read what they have to say. It’s usually an unsolicited sales pitch from an unmotivated sales person, so I feel no remorse hitting the delete button.
But if you’re in sales, marketing, customer service, and even operations, you’ll most likely reach out to others using cold emails. It makes sense to do your research, find your target’s full name, and open your email with an engaging salutation that puts the reader at ease and makes them want to read more.
Best way to open an email
Dale Carnegie said, "Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language." One of the best ways you can start an email is with: "Hi [Name]." It’s friendly, and it’s safe and familiar. You’re not going out on a limb and potentially offending someone.
If you’re worried that "Hi" sounds too informal for someone you don’t know, start with: "Hello, [Name]." You want your reader to see their name, SPELLED CORRECTLY.
Avoid these email salutations
"Hey, guys." Some women get offended when using a male gendered greeting that denies women can belong to the group as well. Second, didn’t your grandmother tell you "Hey is for horses"?
"Dear Sir or Madam." Again, take the time to learn the name of your target reader. If you’re uncomfortable referring to them by first name, you can write "Hi, Ms. Smith" or "Hi, Mr. Jones."
Avoid referring to a female as "Mrs." unless you know for sure she likes that salutation. The more accepted way is "Ms." Women today are sticking with their origin family’s surname for both personal and professional reasons. As women reach exalted professional designations or academic achievements under their maiden names, they’re choosing to keep that name after marriage because it’s associated with their accomplishments.
Remember, someone’s name is deeply personal to them. Make sure you get it right.
- "Dear friend," "Dear Human Resources Manager," or "Dear Mr. Smith." While "Dear" isn’t the worst opening in the world, it’s a little old-fashioned. And if you can’t be bothered to find and use someone’s actual name, you’re probably not friends by any stretch of the imagination.
However, if you’re writing to someone you’re not familiar with who is in a position of respect, using "Dear" and their title is appropriate, such as "Dear Lieutenant Smith" or "Dear Reverend Ambrose."
- Avoid using nicknames, especially for those you don’t know personally. If you’re addressing an email to "Jennifer Jones," don’t write "Hi, Jen." And if your email recipient’s name is "Charles Goolsby," don’t write "Hey, Chuck." Unless, of course, you find proof that Michael signs his emails with "Mike"; then it might look odd if you stick with his formal name.
What to do if you’re writing to a general email inbox?
Sometimes you need to send emails to "info@[company].com" or "sales@[company].com." There’s no way to find out who monitors those email boxes daily, so you can’t start your emails with "Hi, [Name]."
Instead, it’s safe to begin with:
- "Good afternoon."
- "Good morning."
And then jump right into the purpose of your email.
- "I’m reaching out about…"
- "Can you help me…"
- "Allow me to introduce myself…"
Avoid laid-back, colloquial expressions in your business emails. It’s unprofessional to start an email with "Hey, y’all…" unless you’re emailing your family members in the deep South in the United States. Along those same lines, "Hey, folks" or "Yo!" won’t fly. Even though today’s world is much more informal, emails are still not text messages, so treat them as business correspondence.
While you need not go ultra formal, neither should you start your email with: "Thank God It’s Friday!!" But always use a salutation. You’ll seem friendlier if you do.