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Nadia Tatlow

Manager of Marketing - 30 Jan, 2017

How (Not) To Write An Email Greeting

Trying to come up with the perfect greeting for an email message is not always a simple task. The Internet has changed both the way we write, and the way we relate to each other. The lines between formal, friendly and linguistic fiasco have become blurred.

You may not put much thought into the way you start an email message, but that could be a big mistake. The opening line of your email sets the tone for everything to follow. It gives the reader a first impression of you just as surely as a firm handshake — or a rude refusal to engage in one.

An offensive opening, intentional or not, can tarnish a person’s opinion of you. Especially in business situations, and when writing to people you don’t personally know, it’s important to choose your words carefully, or risk taking up permanent residence in their trash.

One gut-check I like to use is the Mom Test. Basically, if your mom wouldn’t like it, why would the person on the receiving end of your next email?

Every industry and workplace is slightly different, but knowing your own voice, and perhaps more importantly, your audiences’ is crucial to your message delivery.

With all that in mind, as part of our never-ending effort to help you get your email related sh*t together, we present some of the best and worst email greetings to ever pass through the tubes.

Hi [name],

The generic, default email greeting. Not quite what we’d call formal, but not rude or offensive either. If you find yourself unable to choose a more specific greeting, simply saying ‘Hi’ followed by the recipient’s name is a safe catch-all option. And please, don’t forget the comma.

[Name],

Direct, professional, and to-the-point. This makes you look like a bit of a boss, but there’s nothing wrong with that, right?

Dear [name],

A throwback, but still considered to be a valid formal greeting in some circles. You wouldn’t be totally wrong to start your message with this salutation — although the recipient might end up looking for a $5 check from their grandmother.

Greetings,

A wee bit old-school, and impersonal, but if you can’t find the name of the person who will be reading your message, this opening serves well for both casual and formal situations.

Dear Sir or Madam,

Please, no. This one is unnecessarily formal. While it was at the top of the list when we used pen and paper (or was it the quill?), it doesn’t translate well into the less formal format of electronic mail. It also lets the reader know instantly that you have no idea who you’re writing to. It’s  clear sign of spam, or at the very least, a message of little importance. In this era of unlimited information, you should do your best to find out who you’re actually writing to.

Mr. / Ms. [last name],

At the least, this one shows a little bit of respect by using Mr., Mrs., or Ms., but it’s such an abrupt and cold greeting that the reader is in a negative state of mind right from the get-go.

Dear Friend,

I don’t know about you, but whenever I’ve been called ‘friend’ by someone I’ve never met, it makes me a little uneasy. You?

Hey There or Hi There,

This gives off a bad feeling, but it’s hard to put your finger on the exact reason why. It has that ‘Dear Friend’ feel to it, I suppose. You’re talking to me as if you know me, but you don’t, which I know and you know, because you don’t use my name. Stop it!

Hi [misspelled name],

If you proofread nothing else, make sure you double check that you’ve spelled the recipient’s name right. Nothing is more insulting, or more telling, than receiving an email so carelessly written that the name — one of the first words on the page — is obviously spelled incorrectly.

What do you think? How do you usually start an email? Better yet, what’s the worst email greeting you’ve ever seen? We’d love to know!