My name is spelled correctly in my signature block; why do so many people misspell it in the salutation?
Only my good friends call me Bobby â my coworker should have used âRobertâ or âBobâ in the salutation.
I hate reading an email that starts with âGood morningâ when it is 9 oâclock at night. The writer has just highlighted that I am 12 hours behind in answering my emails.
Unfortunately, the salutation â whether in an email or a letter â provides endless ways to upset your reader, as indicated by the comments above, from participants in my seminars. And if you offend someone in the first line, that person may not read any further.
Effective salutations can help you connect with your reader, which is especially important during a pandemic. Here are suggestions for starting your correspondence without offense:
1. Spell the recipientâs name correctly. Let me repeat this: Spell the recipientâs name correctly. It may not bother you, but I want to impress upon you that many people are insulted if their name is misspelled. Check for the correct spelling in the personâs signature block. You can also check the “To:” line. Often, peopleâs first and/or last names are in their addresses.
2. Donât shorten a personâs name or use a nickname unless you know it is okay. Use the personâs full name (“Hi, Jacob”) unless you know it is okay to call him Jake. My name is Barbara, but please donât start your emails to me using âHi Barb.â (And the only people who may refer to me as Babz are my son and his friends!)
3. Avoid âDear Sir/Ms.” This salutation tells your reader that you have no idea who that person is. Why then should the reader be interested in what you have to say?
4. Use a non-gender-specific, non-sexist term if you donât know the personâs name. You can use Dear Client, Customer, or Team Member. You can also use Representative, and add it to any company name or department name, such as âDear Microsoft Representative,â or âDear Human Resource Representative.â
5. Salutations are highly recommended in emails. Email doesnât technically require a salutation, as itâs considered to be memo format. When email first appeared, many people did not use salutations. Eventually, people starting adding salutations to appear friendlier and to soften the tone of their writings.
There is a hierarchy of greetings, from informal to formal, and you should match the salutation to the relationship you have with the recipient. The hierarchy follows this format:
Hi, / Hi Anna, / Hello, / Hello Julianna, / Dear Justin, / Dear Mr. Jones,
If the person you are writing to is a colleague, âHi Anna,â should be fine. If you donât know the person, or the person has significantly higher rank than you have, you may want to use the more formal greeting: âDear Justin,â or âDear Mr. Jones.â
In addition to the greeting, pay attention to these points:
âAfter two or three emails have gone back and forth on the same email string, the salutations can be dropped.
âThe punctuation completing the greeting is a comma.
âIf more than one person will receive an email, use “Hello Sara and Bill,” or “Hello Everyone.”
â “Hey” is a very informal salutation (“Hey Josh,” ) and generally should not be used in the workplace. Opening with “Yo” is definitely not okay, no matter how informal your relationship with the recipient. Use “Hi” or “Hello” instead.
âAs illustrated in one of the opening quotes, there are people who donât like receiving an email that starts with âGood morningâ or âGood afternoon.â Although I believe this is a minor offense, using âHelloâ instead eliminates the possibility of offending anyone.
6. Salutations are required in letters. (Okay, there is one type of letter, the simplified format, that doesnât require a salutation, but thatâs not typical usage. The format is generally used for marketing.) In todayâs workplace, a letter is a more formal type of correspondence, and should start with âDearâ followed by either the personâs first name and a colon â âDear Marie:â â or an honorific and the personâs last name, followed by a colon â âDear Mr. Jones:â.
Additional information on writing emails can be found in my book, The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success.
Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on business writing, professional presence, business etiquette, and communication. Contact Joyce Hoff at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. (www.pachter.com)