Many of the questions I receive are about business letters and email. Here are a few recent ones:
Question: Capitalizing Salutations. A colleague always uses lower case after Dear in his salutations. I know I learned that all nouns in a salutation are capitalized and that the first and last words of the salutation are capitalized, but I can’t find the source for either of these rules. Can you help? Peggy, from Maryland
Answer: The first word, all nouns, and all titles are capitalized in the salutation. That’s according to The Gregg Reference Manual. Gregg says nothing about the last word. As pronouns, all and everyone would not be capitalized unless they were the first word or part of someone’s title, according to Gregg.
Question: Names in Salutations. Are there any rules regarding putting "Mr. Sam Green" or "Mr. Green" in a salutation? Shaunicy, from Indiana
Answer: It is standard to write "Dear Mr. Green"–without using the first name. Both first and last name are used when one cannot be sure whether the recipient is a man or woman. The best approach then is "Dear Chris Green." That’s much classier than "Dear Mr. or Ms. Green."
Question: Group Salutation. How do you create an email salutation when writing to three directors and two managers? Lisa
Answer: If you want a true salutation, use their names: "Dear Mark, Alice, Rene, Jim, and Sangita." If they belong to a specific group, use its name: "Dear Budget Committee." Otherwise, use "Greetings," "Hi to all," or "Hello, everyone." You may also omit a greeting and just open in a friendly way: "I am pleased to write to you. . . ."
Question: Fancy Closings. My boss is writing a letter to someone and is ending it with "With warm regards, I remain." Is this proper and what does it mean? Marshall, from Tennessee
Answer: "With warm regards" is a perfectly fine, warm closing. It’s the "I remain" that is troublesome. "I remain" was once a standard ending to the complimentary closing, which looked like this:
With warm regards, I remain,
These days no business writing guides suggest "I remain," which is now considered old-fashioned.
Question: Informal Closing. Is "Cheers" acceptable as a closing? If so, in which types of communication? Laurie, Rhode Island
Answer: Cheers is traditionally a toast before a drink. However, it has begun to be used as a friendly, informal close for email. Avoid it for formal communication.
Question: Signatures. A coworker and I disagree about signing above your typed name in a business letter or below it. Which is correct or are both acceptable? Julie
Answer: The signature belongs above the typed name–not below it. After typing the complimentary close, press Enter four times before typing the name. Those blank lines provide the space for the signature.
I have written about similar questions in other blog entries. Try these for more information:
I wish I could answer everyone’s questions. Please forgive me if I do not respond to your email. Remember: The Gregg Reference Manual has answers to virtually all these questions, and it now has an online version.