Business letter writing requires that you follow specific rules of formatting and etiquette. You should keep to these protocols in everything from the address block at the top of the page to your closing at the bottom. Even the way that you greet a recipient matters, and it begins with your salutation. Learning the customary rules for salutations in business letters and email messages will help ensure you appear professional and knowledgeable with every contact.
The format you use to begin your greeting depends on whether you are socially acquainted with the recipient. If you have never met the person to whom you are writing or if you have a strictly professional relationship, you should always use a formal salutation. Begin with "Dear," end with a colon and address the recipient by title and first name, such as "Dear Mr. Smith:". If you don't know the recipient's name, you can write, "Dear Sir/Madam:".
You may be socially acquainted with the recipient, but you still should open the business letter professionally. Whether you play tennis with a business contact or you have become familiar through your professional interactions, you may greet the recipient in a slightly more casual manner. Start with "Dear," end with a comma and use the name by which you refer to the person, such as, "Dear Penny," or "Dear Judge Williams,".
First Sentence Greeting
Once you have decided on the proper salutation, you can get down to greeting the recipient. For formal business letters, you are not expected to begin with a friendly acknowledgement, but rather, you should state your reason for writing. Starting out with, "This letter serves to inform you..." is perfectly acceptable. If you want to sound more personable, you might start by thanking the recipient for their contact, such as,"Thank you for contacting me regarding..." If you are socially acquainted with the recipient, you may offer a brief "Hello" or "I hope this letter finds you well."
Business Email Salutations
Email etiquette is more relaxed, even in a business setting. You may still want to start with "Dear" if you do not know the recipient, but you can use the person's first name and follow it with a common, such as "Dear Lucy,". If you are acquainted with your business email recipient, feel free to use a more personal greeting. For instance, "Hi, Westley!" or "Hello, Jack," are appropriate ways to begin.
- The AMA Handbook of Business Letters; Jeffrey L. Seglin
- Syntax Training Business Writing: Salutations in Letters and Email
- BBC News: Should E-Mails Open With Dear, Hi, Or Hey?
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images