How To Formulate Greetings In Business Mail

Image by Alejandro Escamilla

After we gave you some tips on what to avoid when writing business emails, we thought that it may be of value to address the topic of greetings as well. Formulating a greeting highly depends on the person you are addressing, and the circumstances in which you are writing. It’s way too easy to sound rude or disrespectful, however sounding overly polite may send a wrong message as well.


Thus, we have gathered some tips and tricks on how to choose the correct greeting for all kinds of business letters and emails.


Different Greetings

There are different kinds of greetings from which one has to choose the properly fitting one for the occasion.

  • Dear Paul
  • Dear Mr. Wood
  • Dear Mr. and Mrs. Wood
  • Dear Sir or Madam
  • Hi Paul
  • Paul

Which one’s more formal than the other is rather obvious, and yet there are nuances that are hard to depict at times. Furthermore, there is the question about which punctuation mark to use to end the salutation. Do I have to use a colon? Or is a comma enough? Do I need a semicolon even?


Comma or Colon

Business letters and emails that are sent for a business purpose (offers, proposals, etc.) should use a colon after the salutation:

  • Dear Mr. Lee:
  • Dear Brenda:

Business correspondence that serves a more social purpose (congratulations, condolence, thank yous, etc.) commonly end with a comma:

  • Dear Mr. Lee,
  • Dear Brenda,



If you don’t know the reader of your letter or email, or when the tone of the letter is rather formal, use the last name of your addressee (and his or her title):

  • Dear Mr. Espinoza
  • Dear Professor Harthorne

Otherwise, it’s perfectly fine to use the first name:

  • Dear Alice

If you are unsure of the person’s gender, the safest way is to address him or her using the full name:

  • Dear Toni Cook
  • Dear J.D. Paige

When addressing two people, make sure to mention both in your greeting:

  • Dear Toni and Magda
  • Dear Mr. West and Mrs. Trojano

If the name of the person you are writing to is entirely unknown, use the job title or a more generic greeting instead of the “To whom it may concern” cliché:

  • Dear Recruiter
  • Dear Sir or Madam

In case you are writing to a company, you can also use the company name:

  • Dear Team


Addressing and Titles

The standard way to open a business letter, may it be a formal or social one, and no matter how familiar you are with the person you are writing to, is using Dear:

  • Dear Mr. Fujita
  • Dear Carol

While you can always use Mr. when addressing a male business partner pf colleague, the case with female co-workers or clients is more difficult. Unless you know whether to use Miss or Mrs., always use the more neutral Ms.:

  • Dear Ms. Hanson

Furthermore, Mr., Ms., Mrs., and Dr. should never be spelled out in a salutation. However, titles like Professor, Reverent, Admiral, and others should be spelled out.

  • Dear Dr. Chang
  • Dear Reverent Neville



All the rules mentioned above are valid for business emails as well. However, informal emails do not need such a careful salutation. In these cases it’s perfectly fine to use

  • Dear Evan
  • Hi Sandy
  • Pete
  • Hello Cassie
  • Good morning, Allan

and the like.