Hello? Is This the Salutation You’re Looking For?

Author: Nick Hawcroft | August 25, 2020

You’re writing an email to a senior manager at another company. Her name is Mrs Jane Smith, and you’ve never written to her before. How do you begin?

Many people would go back to the apparently safe zone of “Dear Mrs Smith”. Others would try “Hello Jane”. It’s a minefield. Which one would you choose?

The thing to remember is this – emails are not business letters.

The old-fashioned practices of business correspondence that were OK back in the 90s have changed. Back then, formality was the key. Today, you need to think about how to build the relationship. Because, let’s face it, you need to build a relationship if you want to get anything out of business interactions. And the best way to build that relationship is to be natural and friendly.

So “Dear” went out with black-and-white portable TVs, ABBA on the record player, and flock wallpaper.

“Hello” is the best opening salutation for virtually every case – whether you’re emailing a senior manager, an external client, or a first-contact recipient.

For first contact, it’s best to begin with “Hello Mrs Smith”. This sounds more relational than “Dear Mrs Smith”, which feels rather distant and formal. Once she replies and signs her email “Best regards, Jane”, that’s your key to starting your next email with “Hello Jane”. The first steps to building the relationship with your new communication partner have been laid.

The feeling about when to switch from “Hello” to “Hi” is vague. A general rule of thumb is you can do so after the first face-to-face meeting, phone call, or video conference.

Remember to address the addressee – avoid starting your email with just “Hello”. Instead, use “Hello” along with their name. Everyone likes to hear their own name…. Plus, you’ll help the people in the cc. Imagine starting to read an email that begins with just ‘Hello’, getting halfway through it, thinking, ‘This has nothing to do with me’, then scrolling back up and finding you were just in the copy….

How do you address an email to 3 people, including a manager and 2 colleagues? Do you start your opening salutation with the manager? What if the manager is male and your colleagues are female? Do your colleagues come first because of ‘chivalry’? Or do you go with seniority first?

The good news is it doesn’t matter. You can put them in the opening salutation in any order you want.

No one cares if you write “Hello Monika, Mike, and Aga” – even if Aga is the manager, and Mike is a new joiner. (No one’s really concerned about Monika.)

A couple of things to avoid: “Dears” is a horrible construction in English; it just sounds wrong. To start an email to a group (in other words, 4 addressees or more), use a group salutation like “Hello Everyone” or “Hi All”.

Similarly, “Hello Both” for 2 recipients sounds ugly – much more relational to use their names.

So, in summary, for up to 3 recipients, use their names: “Hello Ania, Bartek, and Magda”. For 4 recipients and above, use a group salutation: “Hello Everyone”. Remember – relationships are the key, and starting an email like this is open, friendly, and will pay dividends in the long run.


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