Dear Reader: Dear Reader, Dear Ms. Reader: Dear Mr. and Mrs. Reader: Dear Sir or Madam: Hi, Reader, Reader,
This post is all about the etiquette of salutations (greetings) for business letters and email. It's dedicated to the many who have visited this blog in search of tips on how to begin a letter.
Rules for Business Letters
- The standard way to open a business letter is with Dear, the person's name (with or without a title), and a colon, like this:
Dear Louise: Dear Ms. Chu: Dear Mr. and Dr. Paige: Dear Professor Amato: Dear Patrick:
(For more discussion of Dear, see my post "Do I Have to Call You Dear?")
- The standard way to open a social business letter is with Dear, the person's name (with or without a title), and a comma, like this:
Dear Nigel, Dear Dr. Tarabi, Dear Reverend Jans,
A social business letter is social or personal rather than business-focused; for example, letters of condolence, personal congratulations (for weddings, births, promotions, and other celebrations), and thank yous.
- If you don't know the reader well or if the letter or the relationship is formal, use a title and a last name (Dear Ms. Browne). Otherwise, use the first name (Dear Gila).
- Unless you are certain that a woman prefers Miss or Mrs., use the title Ms.
- If you are writing to two people, use both names in your salutation, like this:
Dear Mr. Trujillo and Ms. Donne: Dear Alex and Drenda:
- Never spell out the titles Mr., Ms., Mrs., and Dr. Do spell out these titles and similar ones:
Professor, Dean, Sister, Rabbi, Imam, Senator, Governor, Captain, Admiral, Judge
- If you don't know a person's gender, use the full name rather than a title:
Dear Dana Simms: Dear T.K. Spinazola:
- If you don't know a person's name or gender, avoid "To whom it may concern." Instead, use the job title or a generic greeting:
Dear Recruiter: Dear Claims Adjustor: Dear Sir or Madam:
- If you are writing to a company rather than any specific individual, use the company name:
Dear Syntax Training: (This is considered slightly informal.)
- For a simplified business letter, do not use a salutation. Instead use a subject in all capital letters, followed by the body of the letter, like this:
WAYS TO BEGIN A BUSINESS LETTER
I am writing to share information about standard letter openings to. . . .
Simplified business letters are perfectly acceptable but not common.
Rules for Email
For formal email (that is, email used as a business letter), follow rules 1-7 above. Otherwise, use less formality with greetings like these:
Dear Han, Hi, Eva, Hi Kwasi, Sue, Brooke: Good morning, Wanda, Hello, David,
Or just use the person's name in the opening sentence, like this: Yiota, you were right about the prices.
If you are looking for a desk reference that covers much more about business letters, email, reports, etc., I recommend The Gregg Reference Manual, also known as Gregg. I used Gregg to double-check all the rules and recommendations above.
Dear Reader, good luck with all your salutations!
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