Business Email Etiquette: Appropriate Greetings and Sign-Offs

If you’re like most business professionals, you don’t need any advice in writing the body of a business email. You send off tens, if not hundreds, each day. You may have some doubts, however, about how to greet your recipient and how to sign off.Business Email Etiquette

Is “dear” too formal or grandiose a salutation? Is “Hi Bob,” too casual? “Hello Goldilocks,” seems neither too warm nor cold, but is it just right for every email?

As you sign off, is “Best regards,” too stodgy and is “Best,” too brief? How about “Thanks,” – is that too presumptive? Is “Cheerio” just plain ridiculous and is “- Alan” too cavalier?

Maybe the best approach is to get straight to the point and finish with a period after your last sentence. Would that be too abrupt?

While there’s no need to obsess over calibrating each greeting and sign-off to your correspondent, it helps to have a general guide to the appropriate etiquette for your audience.

“The business email opening and closing serve two practical purposes: 1) to set the tone of the email’s content, and 2) to define your relationship with the recipient” says Kelly Lemon, Director of Marketing for Imprimis. “With that in mind, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. It’s all about having a small toolbox and knowing which tools are appropriate for each communication.”

Standard Greetings

Use these:

  • Hello <Name>, — This may be your most utilized professional greeting because it conveys that you aren’t too familiar with your recipient, nor are you just establishing a first-time connection. It can be used to correspond with anyone on the company hierarchy, above or below your rank. A colon enables you to fine tune the greeting with just an added touch of formality.
  • Hi <Name>, — Use this friendlier greeting for emails to people with whom you work closely or for emails to people you know well.
  • Hello Everyone, — This is generally appropriate for addressing a list of recipients, whether you know them well or not.
  • Dear <Mr./Mrs./Ms. Last Name>, — This is appropriate for contacting people of a higher station outside of your organization, especially when contacting them for the first time. It avoids the risk of being too informal. It is also appropriate within organizations that value formality in addressing superiors.

Not these:

  • Good morning/afternoon/evening, — Not a terrible choice, but it assumes your recipient will read the email soon after you send it.
  • Hi, or Hello, — This can be perceived as lazy. Use the names.
  • <First Name>, — Too informal and can be perceived as jarring or abrupt.

Standard Sign-Offs

Use these:

  • Best regards, or Best, — Universally safe and appropriate. The latter is more informal.
  • Thank you, or Thanks, — Appropriate when the email contains a request. The latter is more informal.
  • Sincerely, — Use this as a sign-off when you begin with Dear <Name>,.
  • Cheers, — Fine if it fits your personality, when you are on familiar terms.
  • Yours, or Yours Truly, — Rarely appropriate, but can work when the salutation is Dear Mr./Mrs./Ms.,.

Not these:

  • Warmly, — Too intimate.
  • – <Your Name>, — Too cold and abrupt.
  • [ Nothing ] — Too abrupt and can be perceived as impolite.

Keep this post handy, share it with people you work with closely, and have fun seeing how others implement these guidelines.