Email greetings: Best ways to address an email formally and casually

As the old saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. And when it comes to writing an email, your email greeting can affect the way the recipient views you – and even whether they read your message. So, how do you address an email sender? Should you say hi in every email?
Join us for a deep dive into email greetings!

by Alyssa Schmitt
Man with grey hair looks at laptop in home office with white furnishings
Looking for the perfect email opening? Try one of the starters below!

Today we share email openings that you can use in professional emails or informal messages.

Keep reading to learn:
  1. Best email salutations
  2. How to address an unknown recipient in an email
  3. Mistakes to avoid in your salutation
  4. Professional email starters
  5. Ways to start an email reply
  6. Do you always need an email salutation?

Best email salutations

Sometimes it can be hard to choose the best salutation for your email. Here are five examples that are almost always appropriate:

1. Hi (first name)

When it comes to an email greeting, it’s hard to beat “Hi (first name)”. It’s suitable for any situation where you know and use the recipient’s first name. If you’re addressing the recipient with Mr./Ms. + last name, however, choose one of the more formal options below instead. And please note that “Hi there!” is strictly for informal emails.

2. Hello (name)

Another universally acceptable salutation, “Hello (name)” is considered slightly more formal than “Hi” and can be used either with a first name or Mr./Ms. + last name.

3. Dear (name)

“Dear (name)” is appropriate for all formal emails, but has a slightly old-fashioned feel that makes it less suitable for informal messages.

4. Greetings

This is a common and polite salutation for an email sent to a group – or a single recipient when you are not sure how to spell their name.

5. Good morning / afternoon / evening

This is another polite way to open an email to a group of people, or it can be personalized by adding the name of an individual recipient.

How do you start an email to a stranger?

You may read this list of salutations and think “Ok, but how do I email a person whose name I don’t know?” For example, you are applying for a job and don’t know the name of the HR manager. Or you are writing to a company to cancel a service. In the past, the recommended salutation for formal letters where you did not know the recipient’s name was “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir/Madam.” However, neither of these greetings have stood the test of time for use in emails.
After all, in the age of the internet, it is often possible to research the name of the person you want to write to at a company. So, if your email is important, e.g., you are sending a job application, put in the work to see if you can find the name of your contact person.
But what if your search for a name comes up blank, or the name is not really relevant for your purpose, e.g., emailing customer support? The modern, less formal solution to addressing an unknown recipient in an email is to use the name of their department or their job title in combination with one of the salutations listed above, for example:

  • Dear Hiring Manager,
  • Dear Human Resources Department,
  • Hello Customer Service Representative,
  • Good morning, Accounts Payable Team,
Another acceptable but less formal way to address an unknown person (or a group) is to offer a general warm salutation:
  • Good morning,
  • Greetings,

No matter which option you choose, if you get a reply signed with the name of an actual human being, be sure to use it in your greeting if you write back to them!

Pro tip: Avoid these mistakes in your email salutation

Although it might seem like not a lot could go wrong in a short opener, here are some common mistakes to steer clear of in your email opening greetings:

  • If you are using a person’s name in your salutation, always make sure you have spelled it correctly!

  • If you are not sure of your recipient’s gender, avoid using the Mr. or Ms. honorific + last name. Use their full name instead. “Dear Sir or Madam” is also no longer considered a gender-inclusive option.

  • While technically correct, “To whom it may concern” is considered impersonal and overly formal by many people today. Rather than risk putting them off, play it safe by using one of the formal greetings listed above instead.

  • Email salutations should be punctuated with a comma, not an exclamation mark or period.

Professional email starters

What is the best greeting sentence to start an email?

Once you’ve chosen a salutation, it’s time to start your message. In a professional email, you may want to start with a polite statement of goodwill before jumping to the reason for your message. Here are some professional email starters you can use as an opening sentence:

  • I hope this email finds you well.
  • I hope you are doing well.
  • I hope your week is going smoothly.
  • I hope you had a nice weekend.
Note that all these started are phrased as well-wishes rather than questions – asking “How was your weekend?” can feel intrusive. But if you know the person and they told you they were going on vacation, for example, you could lead with “How was your vacation?” or a similar polite question.
Now move to the reason for your email. Be sure to keep things concise – this shows that your respect your recipient’s time. These phrases can help you introduce the core content of your message:
  • I’m reaching out to you because…
  • I’m emailing you to…
  • I’m hoping to get your input on…
  • I’m writing to inform you…

Informal email writing examples

If you are writing to a coworker you know well, it’s perfectly fine to start with a “Hi there” or “Hey, it’s me again!” It can be nice to give your email a personal touch – you can start by congratulating them on a recent accomplishment or ask about a project they’ve been working on. It’s also okay to inject a mild touch of humor in your email opener:
  • Hopefully you’ve had your coffee!
  • You may want to sit down before read this.
  • I’ll keep this short, I promise!
  • Hope you’re surviving the workweek.
Just keep in mind the golden rule of workplace emailing: You never know who an email could be forwarded to, so be sure keep any humor appropriate.

How to start an email response

If you’ve received a reply to your email and need to send a response, take a look at how the person signed off on their message. For example, if you sent an email to “Dear Ms. Smith” but she signed her response as “Jackie”, follow her lead and start your response with “Hello Jackie”. 
In a professional context, it’s also considered good form to begin a response with some appreciation:
  • Thanks for your help.
  • I appreciate the update.
  • Thank you for your quick response.
  • It’s great to hear from you.

Professional openings for follow-up emails

Sometimes you have to reach out to a person for a second time – if you have new information to provide, for example, or if you have not received a response. Here are some phrases to get you started:
  • I wanted to follow-up with you about …
  • As mentioned in my email / in our last meeting / in our phone call …
  • I’m checking in on...
  • Can you provide me with an update on…
  • As promised, I’m sending…

Good to know: Should you say hi in every email?

Generally speaking, whenever you write an email it should include a greeting. Skipping the “Dear Ms. Smith,” or “Hi Sally” and jumping straight to your point might seem efficient to you, but there is a good chance your recipient will find it abrupt or even rude. It would be like walking up to someone in the office kitchen and demanding a project update without saying “Good morning” first. The exception to this rule is if you are emailing back and forth in the same chain on the same day – then you can feel free to skip the greeting.

We hope our email greetings will help you next time you’re staring at a blank screen! We look forward to your feedback below.
This article first appeared on May 29, 2022, and was updated on February 8, 2024.
Images: 1&1/Shutterstock

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