How To Write Salutations (With Examples)
Updated November 29, 2022
A salutation is the first part of your correspondence and sets the tone for how your reader perceives you. Learning the correct salutation etiquette can help ensure your messages are received the right way. In this article, we discuss what a salutation is, explain the importance of using the proper greeting, provide tips to consider when choosing a salutation, and share some examples of appropriate salutations in different situations.
What is a salutation?
A salutation is how you address your reader at the beginning of a letter, email, or other correspondence. Your salutation is a way to greet your reader, and it shows friendliness and politeness. The salutation is usually the first sentence in a correspondence, after the address and the date. It's the introduction to your message. As it's the first time you address the recipient, it's an essential part of your correspondence.
Importance of using the proper salutation
Your salutation can go a long way in determining how your recipient perceives you and your message. Here are some reasons you need to choose the most appropriate salutation for each individual case:
1. It shows respect
Using the correct salutation demonstrates a respectful attitude. For example, when writing formal letters, it's polite to use your recipient's appropriate title. This shows you value the time of your reader and respect their person. In turn, the reader may be more open to your message or requests.
2. It demonstrates writing ability
Using the appropriate salutation shows you're familiar with writing etiquette and can help establish to your reader that you're a seasoned writer. In addition, demonstrating your writing skill can be helpful when applying for a role where writing skills is needed. Ensure you also punctuate your salutations properly to convince your reader of your ability.
3. It sets the right tone for your correspondence
The salutation is the first thing your reader sees. Your salutation gives an impression of your intention and the possible content of your message. It also determines how they interpret the content of your message, and sometimes, whether they read it at all.
Related: Who To Address a Cover Letter To
4. It can show thoroughness and research
With salutations, the more specific they are to your reader, the better. Putting extra efforts to verify details like the title, status, and name of your reader can communicate that you're a thorough person. This can set you apart and portray your competence.
5. It helps build professional relationships
An appropriate salutation helps identify yourself as a professional to your reader, which can lead to the formation of strong professional relationships. Such networks can ultimately be beneficial to your career advancement.
Examples of proper salutations for different situations
There are various things to consider when deciding on the right salutation. Generally, it's advisable to seek more knowledge about your recipient to know the appropriate salutation. Here are examples of different situations and your appropriate salutation:
These are situations where the correspondence is in a professional setting. This can be anything from a work email to a cover letter or a sponsorship request. The proper salutation in strictly formal, unfamiliar correspondence is "Sir," Dear Sir," "Madam," or "Dear Madam." These salutations are for when you know the gender of the recipient, and they apply to both married and single people.
I'm writing this letter to request a transfer to another branch."
When you don't know the recipient in a formal setting
You might not know some of your recipient's details, including their name or gender. In a formal situation, you can use "to whom it may concern." Some people consider this option outdated, so it's better you use it only as a last resort.
"To whom it may concern,
I am writing to complain about the services of your company formally."
When you don't know the recipient in an informal setting
If it's a casual situation, you can use an endearment like "friend." It is polite to follow with what the recipient would like you to call them going forward.
It is great to be writing to you for the first time. Please let me know how you'd like me to address you as going forward."
When you know only the office of the recipient
If you don't know the recipient, you can address it to their office if you have that information.
"Dear Oak Tree Inc.,
I'm writing this letter to propose an innovative new technology for your company."
When you know the recipient's name only
There are situations where you might know the recipient's name, but not their gender or appropriate title. In formal situations, you can either use their full name or use their initials and surname.
"Dear Alex Jameson/Dear A. Jameson,
Congratulations, I'm writing to inform you of your promotion to branch manager."
Related: How to Write a Professional Email
When it's a semi-formal letter
Certain messages need to be professional but are between people who are familiar with each other. For example, this can be among close colleagues in professional correspondence. In such cases, it's appropriate to use their title and their last name.
"Dear Mr. McDonald,
Kindly find attached the updated spreadsheet. Enjoy your weekend!"
When you're continuing a conversation
If your message is a reply to a previous letter or email, it's appropriate to drop the title and address the recipient by their name. Ensure you verify that the recipient encourages being addressed by their name and try to follow their lead.
Thank you for replying so quickly. Kindly reconsider my comments on items one and two."
When you know the recipient well
In cases where you know the recipient personally, you can use a more casual salutation. You can use the recipient's first name and a more formal greeting.
Thanks for sending me that list of classic literature novels."
When you are addressing multiple recipients
You may need to address a letter to multiple recipients at once. In formal situations, you can follow the usual salutations you use for single recipients. You can list out the recipients if there are three or fewer. It is polite to list them in order of seniority or alphabetically. Where the recipients are more than three, you can refer to them collectively, using the most appropriate term. Possible examples include "Dear Team," "Dear Management Team," or "Dear HR Team."
"Dear Mr. McDonald, Mr. Jones, and Mr. Munroe,
This email is regarding our last negotiation meeting."
"Dear Marketing Team,
This is to remind you of our strategy meeting at 5:00 p.m. this Thursday."
When you have multiple recipients in an informal setting
In informal situations where you have multiple recipients, you can address them individually or as a group.
"Hi Bruno, James, and Susie,
I can't wait to see you bright and early for our hiking trip tomorrow!"
When the recipients are married
If the recipients are a married couple and one of them changed their surname, you can use their surname just once in your salutation.
"Dear Mr. and Mrs. Sutherland,
It was an absolute delight spending the last few days at your cottage."
When the recipient has a professional qualification or title
You can address your letter to a recipient with a professional qualification or special title. This can be a medical doctor, a doctorate holder, or a religious leader among other certified professionals. In the instances of a medical doctor or doctorate holder, you can abbreviate the title as "Dr." For other titles, you can write out the full title like "Rabbi Acharya." You can decide to use their first name, last name, or both after the salutation, depending on how well you know them.
"Dear Professor Jane,
I have gone through your comments on my project, and I have a few clarifying questions."
Other tips for choosing your salutations
Here are some other tips to help you ensure you get your salutation right consistently:
Be specific: The more specific you are to your recipient, the better. Using more specific information helps you connect with your reader.
Punctuate correctly: Properly punctuating your salutation is just as crucial as the salutation itself.
Be cautious: When in doubt, it's better to write formally instead of informally. Try to follow the lead of the recipient, but remain formal if in doubt.
Proofread: Review your message before you send your mail. This ensures you find any spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors and that your message reads as you intended.
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