Much of today's communication, both business and personal, takes place over email. Depending on the context, the right approach to greeting someone digitally can greatly vary. If you're entering a new job or want to improve your understanding of business etiquette, you might benefit from learning about the best way to handle email greetings. In this article, we review what should be in a professional email greeting, the steps to starting an email and different ways to greet someone professionally.
What should be in a professional email greeting?
A professional email greeting should provide its recipient cues so they can determine what the email discusses and what action they should take. Often, email conversations last for a prolonged period as multiple parties provide updates, respond to one another and acknowledge what each other is saying. Therefore, within a single email thread, multiple greetings may be useful to help the conversation flow. Professional email greetings typically include:
- The recipient: Business etiquette requires professionals to address their email recipient formally, unless the sender is familiar with them. In email threads with many participants, specifying who you intend to communicate with is key.
- An opening or continuing of a conversation: Professionals often engage in many email chains at once and therefore benefit from receiving context with each email. When starting a conversation, senders can simply use a friendly greeting, but when continuing one, they benefit from restating where the conversation stood previously.
- A polite tone: Professional emails can be kind and personable, but they should always maintain a polite tone. Adhering to this standard supports productive working relationships, a positive reputation for your company and a professional reputation for yourself.
How to start an email
Here are the steps to take to ensure you make a professional first impression with any business email:
1. Align with your organisation
While business communications often include participants' personalities and emailing habits, the preferred practices of an organisation often dictate the parameters of what's acceptable for you to include in a business email. For instance, a law firm might expect its employees to remain highly formal in all greetings and email contents, while a children's entertainment company might actively avoid language it considers stuffy or unfriendly. If new to a company, ask your manager or colleagues about its business communications standards so that you properly represent your organisation in all of your exchanges.
Related: How To End an Email
2. Consider your audience
Depending on who the recipient of your email is, you might adjust how you start your email. You might have close working relationships with representatives of other companies and your co-workers, making it appropriate to adopt a slightly more informal approach to your emails with them. In some cases, embracing a conversational tone in your emails with such individuals can strengthen your partnerships or sense of teamwork with them and have a positive effect on your work.
However, you also can expect to have to send business emails to people you haven't met or leaders in your organisation. When communicating with these figures, you benefit from remaining more formal, direct and courteous throughout your email, especially in its opening.
3. Review past communications
Emailing business partners, clients and colleagues successfully also requires that you adapt your communication style to suit their preferences. For instance, you might have gone a few months without emailing a major client for your company and now need to reopen a conversation. To accommodate the client, you would benefit from reviewing your past communications with them to see how they like to structure their exchanges. You might notice that they appreciate a conversational approach, or that they demand direct and brief messages. You can then start your email in a way that reflects your shared history and their preferences.
4. Factor in the subject of your email
Sometimes, the most important consideration for starting an email is the subject. You might have to send an emergency update to a colleague you're normally informal with or you might send a client a document in an email to which they don't need to respond. When starting an email with a conversational question, you suggest that your email is of standard importance and that you're simply being polite. When you start an email with only someone's name and immediately discuss your business matter, you signal the email is either a formality or addressing a more serious situation.
5. Clarify future expectations
When sending an email, you may need your recipient to take some action in response. If so, you might start your email by immediately referencing whatever you need them to do so there's no confusion as to what you're asking of them. For example, if you need the recipient to complete a document, you can be polite while also being direct by writing something like, When you have a moment, please see the attached and sign as required.
How do you greet someone professionally?
Here are several professional greetings, categorised by the situations in which you could use them:
A common business email scenario is when you need to email someone whose acquaintance you have not made. The recipient could be an employee in another department of your company, another business's representative or a client. In each of these cases, it's important to clarify who you are and why you're emailing them. Generally, cold greetings are more formal, since they represent an introduction to someone you don't know and want to learn about before using any informality. Here are some cold email greetings you can use:
- My name is [your name], and I'm writing on behalf of [your company]
- Allow me to introduce myself
- I'm contacting you because...
- I hope this email finds you well
- I'm writing to...
- Dear Sir or Madam
- To Whom It May Concern
- Dear Mr/Mrs [Surname]
Professionals frequently send emails to more than one recipient. Group greetings help you address several people politely while communicating your intent. However, group emails have different formats that could affect the greeting you choose. If emailing several people directly involved in a matter, you likely list them as To recipients. In other instances, you might use CC to address a group with some connection to the discussion or you might use BCC to send a group email that's written as though it's communicating with a single person. Here are group greetings to consider for To and CC recipients:
- I hope everyone is doing well
- I wanted to get in touch with everyone regarding [subject]
- Greetings, all
- Hello, everyone
- Hi [first recipient], [second recipient] and [third recipient]
- Dear team
When using BCC, you might individualise your greeting. For example, you could use:
- To our valued client
- Dear loyal customer
Informal greetings are friendly email openings appropriate for routine communications between you and close colleagues or longtime business partners and clients. While more casual than other greetings, these should remain professional and represent your organisation well. The goal of an informal greeting is to acknowledge the bond you've established with another individual so that you can continue to develop it, rather than maintaining a distant and unfamiliar style of communication. Informal greetings to try include:
- Hey there, [name]
- Hope your week's going well
- I'm glad to have the opportunity to reconnect
- It was so nice to see you
- I enjoyed your recent [article/work project/social media post]
- How did your [recent event] go?
- How's everything?
- [Event or item] reminded me of you, and I wanted to reach out
Follow-up greetings are distinct because they offer an additional context that cold emails or new discussions typically don't require. A follow-up greeting often confirms that you've fulfilled an obligation or business partner's request, making it a key part of your overall message. Some useful follow-up greetings are:
- Per our previous discussion...
- As promised, I...
- Following up on our earlier conversation...
- Regarding the above...
- I wanted to confirm that...
- Thank you for taking care of...
- Would you be able to update me on...
- It was a pleasure to make your acquaintance at...
Many professional relationships revolve around specific windows of time. Specifying a timeframe right in your greeting can help the recipient know whether the email is a routine communication or if something urgent has come up. For instance, a chef might always email their fish orders to the supplier late at night. In other cases, during a certain time of the year, such as the holidays, it's polite to modify your greetings accordingly. Some time-specific greetings are:
- Good morning
- Good afternoon
- Good evening
- Happy Friday
- Forgive the weekend email, but...
- Happy holidays
- Season's greetings
- Happy New Year