A salutation is a greeting we use at the beginning of an email, a letter, or a note. Even a text or an online comment can begin with a salutation. The salutation is also defined as a polite expression of greeting or goodwill. It is also the opening line of your email, where you address the recipient directly, usually by name.
In the world of email, however, a number of salutation styles are acceptable. Which one is best for a given situation depends on facts such as your relationship to the recipient, the culture of your firm and the content and context of the message. In addition, salutation for single recipient differs from multiple recipients.
Some business professionals use salutations to genetically refer to both the opening and the closing of emails. For example, “Dear Mr. Steve” is an “opening salutation” while “yours sincerely” is a “closing salutation”. Also, email salutation can be sent to an individual or to a group.
The fact is that salutation should be polite.
Why Do We Use Salutations in Email and Letters?
The original intent of the salutation need not be lost. Many at times people often have good intentions but the methods in which they present their greetings especially in the formal settings often seems too casual.
Especially over email, salutations are important. When we are communicating one-on-one, our body language and vocal intonations give our words context, but when we are communicating electronically, we don’t have those body features in emails, and it is extremely easy for a harmless phrase to be interpreted as a rude gesture. Salutation and greetings add warmth to the body of an email.
The purpose of salutation is to greet the reader with all due respect. In the professional world, salutation should not be overly familiar. Greetings and salutation show courtesy. Courtesy is the basic requirement for a professional email. It means using of such words and phrases that indicate a polite attitude towards the individual receiving the mail.
Tips on Effective Salutation Writing
First, consider a couple of factors –
- Your Audience: Identify the type of audience you want to send an email to.
- The use of “Dear”: “Dear” is one of the most appropriate words you can use in saluting your recipient. Personalize this by using the recipient’s most honorable title, such as Miss, Dr, Professor, Minister to write an opening salutation is through the use of the Dear with or without a title case e.g Dear Tamara (without a title case) Dear Miss Tamara (with title case).
- Email to Group: If you are writing an email to two to five individuals, use both names in your salutation. For example Dear Mr. Jake and Miss Jones. This is acceptable in a professional mail.
- Unknown Gender: If you don’t know the recipient’s gender, use both the first name and the last name instead of the title case. For example, Dear Elly Mayer.
- Email to Company: If you are writing to a company rather than any specific individual, use the company’s name. For example Dear Ozone. However, this is slightly considered as informal. But the point here is that the receiver of the email is under the company’s name, so it is kind of allowed.
Bear the following in mind –
- The salutation should not be used in an over- familiar manner and it should not be too strict.
- Often overlooked part of salutations is ensuring you spell names correctly including uncommon constructions such as hyphens and second capital letters. When using a person’s first or last name, always double-check the spelling of the name. A misspelled name leaves a bad impression.
- Avoid the use of generalization. Be specific in your salutation. For example, I often come across emails in which the recipients are addressed as “Dear Sir/Ma”. Besides, when emails are properly addressed it gets the needed attention. I think, oftentimes, people try to play safe so they just make up their mind and say let he/she choose the one that is applicable to the person. This is totally wrong because, with the abundance of information available on the internet and mobile phone, any information needed is just a few seconds away from you. It is poor form to use generic salutation like “Dear Sir/Madam” or “to whom it may concern”. Using such indicates that you didn’t take much time to consider the person to whom you are writing to. Worse, a common business email salutation crime is to assume “Dear Sirs” covers it all.
- Do not use emoticons and slangs in a professional email salutation. Emoticons are usually used in informal writings to express various facial and mood expressions I personally will disregard any email with an emoji in its salutation. Don’t try it with professional bodies.
- More formal greetings such as “good morning, good day, good afternoon” followed by the name of the recipient are acceptable professional email salutations. Don’t worry about what time your recipient will read your email. A time peg tells when you wrote the email and roughly how long you have been waiting for a response. Make sure your greetings corresponds with your own timing. Do not greet afternoon when it is actually morning in your time zone. To play safe it is advised to say “Good day”
- Do not include quotes in a professional email salutation. It is a mistake to leave people guessing about what you want to say. Keep your audience in mind and go straight to the point.
- When sending an email to a large audience, naming each person in that group becomes cumbersome. However, in such a situation you can find the common identity shared by the group. For example, if the audience is made up of only women. Then you address them as “Dear ladies” or if they are your colleagues “Dear Colleagues”
- Never send up a professional email to your boss or client using colloquial languages such as hugs, kisses etc. It is wrong. There are some closing salutations that even though they sound professional at first, can actually be perceived as too distant or unfriendly. A commonly acceptable closing salutation is “yours faithfully”.
Addressing a Business Email to an Unknown Recipient
Regardless of whether or not you know the gender of the recipient, responding to their emails with proper salutations is essential. This determines if the recipient will keep reading your email or not. In this section of the article, we're going to discuss the best ways to address a business email to an unknown recipient.
When addressing people you don't know, the most important rule is the rule of reciprocity. These rules state that you address unknown recipients how they address you. E.g. if they respond to your emails continually with “Dear Sir” Or “Dear First name” or “Dear Last name” you should address them the same way.
Tips on Addressing a Business Email to an Unknown Recipient
1. Address the recipient by name
The best way to address an email is to the person's name. If you're unsure of their gender, you could find out more from the company (If you're wondering what to know if you don't know their gender, we'll get to that in later parts of this article.)
When addressing an email to a recipient you know their gender, you should address them as “Dear First name?” or “Dear Last name” This is considered old fashioned, a more modern way would be to address the recipient by their titles first before either their first name or last names. “Dear Title-Mr./Mrs./Ms. First name or Last name“
In essence addressing the recipient as, “Dear Mrs Sandra” or “Dear Mr James” should suffice when addressing an email to an unknown recipient.
2. When addressing an Unknown Gender
Most times when addressing a business email to an unknown recipient, there are chances you don't know their gender as well. In a case like this, you should address them using “Dear Sir/Madam” This method is less personal and more polite. More importantly, it is neutral. So, it can be used even when you don't know the gender.
3. Address unknown recipients using their Job titles
If you're cold-emailing a potential client and you don't know their name gender but know their job titles, you can address them using their job titles.
For example, “Dear Managing Director” or “To the Managing Director” explains to the recipient that you're aware of their position.
If you're emailing a company and are unsure of the recipient's gender or role, you could simply address the email to the company. An example is, “Dear Amazon Inc.“
If you're emailing a generic email address gotten from a website, an example of such an email would be “[email protected]” Or “[email protected]” you could address the email as the company name or you could use, “To Whom It May Concern“.
It's usually not advisable to use “To Whom It May Concern” when addressing an unknown recipient, this is because it's considered aggressive. If you're using that in your email addressing an unknown recipient, you should start the email with a light note, like, “Thank you for your time” or “I hope this email finds you well” this often sets the tone of the email right.
Lastly, when addressing emails to unknown recipients, do not address them using adverbs like, “Hello There,” This is considered highly unprofessional.
Salutations are extremely important but they should be kept simple, polite, and formal in professional emails. Courtesy is reciprocal. Never be in too much of a hurry that you forget such an easy and very important tool in professional emails – salutation. Always remember – sending a professional email without an opening salutation is like entering another person's house without knocking. Similarly, sending a professional email without a closing salutation is like leaving a person's house without saying “goodbye”.