Yesterday a woman who lives in India, whom I will call Bala, participated in my online class How to Write Email That Gets Results. She told me that at her company a typical opening sentence of an email is this: "I hope this email finds you well." Bala wanted to know whether such an opening sentence was appropriate when sending email to US clients.
What do you think? Is "I hope this email finds you well" an effective way to begin a business email?
In its favor, the sentence is courteous. But it doesn’t speak the language of a US or Canadian audience, in my experience.
Rather than opening with a sentence about finding you well, business writers in the US and Canada are much more likely to dive into the subject of the email after greeting the reader by name with a "Hi," "Hello," or sometimes “Dear.”
If the writer and reader have not communicated lately, a sentence such as "I hope you are doing well" or "I hope you are enjoying this spring weather" is the US and Canadian equivalent of Bala's example. (I have emails with those opening sentences in my inbox.)
But “I hope you” sentences are not normally used in email to strangers. Those messages are likely to begin with "Dear" and the person's name, followed by a sentence about the reason for the email.
Bala is wise to want to use her readers’ language and style. Doing so will create comfort and build trust with people across many thousands of miles.
I would like to create comfort too. For my blog readers around the world, I would like to write a post about how to communicate sympathy and caring to Japanese friends and business associates, in light of the suffering and anxiety caused by the earthquake and tsunami. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough experience with Japanese culture to know whether such messages are appropriate and if they are, which words would best express heartfelt sentiments in the face of such tragedy.
If you are or know an expert in Japanese culture, would you send me an email and share your advice? My address is lynngATsyntaxtraining.com.
I hope to do my best to speak my readers’ language. I will appreciate your help.
UPDATE: In response to readers' requests, on July 18, 2012, I published a blog on opening sentences for email. You can find it here: