How to Start an Email: 22 Simple Ways (& Things to Avoid)

Farzad Rashidi
Farzad Rashidi

Lead Innovator at Respona

As the adage goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression.

While technically that could be your email subject line when writing a business email, using the right email greetings are where you really set the tone for your business relationship.

Using the right salutation at the top of an email is all about context, and we’re here to help people working in:

Hit the right note at the start of an email.

Whatever your business email use case, we’ve got useful email greetings and a brief on when to use them and when they’re not appropriate.

Let’s do this.

Why Does the Beginning of Your Email Matter?

Having a strong beginning of your email will let the person reading it understand a lot about you, your business, and your intentions.

The first words in a conversation hold a lot of power and you want to use them right, after all, most emails are only read for ten seconds, which is three-quarters less time than three years ago.

Here are the main functions of a good opening line for an email:

  • To grab the recipient’s attention, use the recipient’s name, especially when you personalize your email and make it relevant to them.
  • The tone of the conversation can be set, whether you’re going for a formal piece of business writing or a more personal contact to establish a business relationship.
  • You demonstrate what your brand is about when you start your email in a fun way or make it a more professional email – the difference between Hi and Hello is important and we’ll look at it in detail, soon.
  • Not using the proper salutation can be highly offensive when you use the wrong gendered honorifics, e.g. Ms, Mr, Lady, Lord, etc.
  • The right opening can show that you’ve put just a little bit of effort into understanding who you’re talking to.

Before we get to some email templates for opening lines, we’re going to cover what not to do when you start your email.

6 Things to Avoid When Sending a Cold Email

There are a few things you really need to pay attention to when writing a business email and trying to set a friendly or professional tone.

These mistakes can lead to your email being ignored and deleted and even annoy someone enough to mark you as spam or make a complaint.

Here’s how to prevent annoying people with your email opening line.

Writing with heightened formality

Going too formal can be a communication killer, in the wrong circumstances.

It’s important to do your research about who you’re talking to by reading some of their social media posts or blog posts if you’ve never met them before.

For example, if you read one of our recent articles about writing a pitch to an editor, you can see the type of communication style we have:

tips for reaching out to editors and publishers

We keep it informal and conversational, so you’d not start an email to someone at Respona with To whom it may concern, which is kinda stuffy.

Another highly formal and super impersonal starter would be Dear Sir/Madam.

Don’t know about you, but it feels like something from a British period drama.

Being too chill

So, like, wanna kick it and make dollar?

That’s how not to start a business email!

No matter how relaxed your style is, you risk offending people by being over-familiar with some greetings.

Keep an informal email polite and don’t assume you have the same slang or cultural touchpoints as your recipient.

How would you respond to a business email starting with Yo Jesse,  or ‘Sup dude?

It’s ok to use an informal greeting – we’ve got plenty of examples coming up soon – but remember that you’re asking for someone to see you as a person to work with or buy from, not grab a beer or hit the beach.

Being waaaaay too enthusiastic!!

Having super shiny happy fun interesting people around you at work is cool.

Putting that personality into someone’s inbox can come across as mildly irritating or seem like you’re trying to be pals when you really want a business relationship.

If you really have to use an exclamation point in your salutation, stick with one, but honestly, they’re better in the body of the text.

Emails can be bouncy and full of fun, but go with something light and informal to start and get into the sunshine text as you write.

Spellling Spelling mistakes

Although people can be quite forgiving about a small mistake in the body of an email, lots still get irked at a misspelled name.

It can be anything from changing the gender of a name, e.g. Jo to Joe, to coming across as culturally unaware.

If I were to get an email that started as Hi Fazad, I’m going to think the sender doesn’t pay attention to detail or double-check their information; do I really want to do business with this person?

Grammar Note:Technically, you should be putting a comma between Dear/Hi etc. and the person’s name but no one does anymore and it’s really not expected.

Using the wrong name

As annoying as a misspelling in a name is, getting it completely wrong will likely get you crickets in response to your outreach email.

First, you’re emailing a person who likely has their name in their email address, and even if you’re emailing [email protected], you should still check who you actually want to reach.

You can also come across as culturally insensitive if you get a name wrong.

There are many cultures that structure their names as the family name followed by the given name so you should check what the person you’re emailing is actually addressed as before hitting send.

One last name rule for you – avoid using the receiver’s full name because it comes across as strangely formal and it’s just not the done thing.

Misgendering a person

It’s perfectly possible to write an email or any other business writing using completely gender-neutral language.

Unless you’re certain of a person’s pronouns, stick with the neutral suggestions we give you further down.

You don’t want to Dear Sir a woman or Dear Madam a man when it’s so simple to avoid!

Hedging your chances with Dear Sir or Madam just isn’t necessary when you have so many better options at hand that deliver the same level of formality.

Speaking of formality, we’re starting our list of ways to start an email with opening lines for formal settings.

Use Case #1: How to Start a Formal Email

Emailing someone in a position of authority or seniority for the first time requires a level of formality.

You want to ensure that you show respect and you’re likely to have that respect reciprocated; if that’s the type of conversation you’re looking for.

There are some cautions to take here, so let’s check out the most common email starters.

Subject

Greetings,

This is one of the most formal opening lines for an email and should be used when you want to be very polite with a touch of warmth.

Be sure to only use it the first time you contact a person since it doesn’t have their name and adding one, e.g. Greetings James, doesn’t quite work.

If you’re of a certain age, you may remember Marvin the Martian’s “Greetings Earthlings” – this can be perceived as the highest level of politeness for off-planet visitors!

Subject

Dear [Name],

This is also a very formal way to start an email.

It’s a good way to address an email when talking about a job interview, communicating to someone with authority, working in a government department, etc.

It also requires personalization, which we’ll talk about in more detail soon, but suffice to say that addressing a person by their name provides an instant connection.

Subject

Dear [Job Title],

If you really need to, you can start an email with Dear Hiring Manager if you’re applying for a job or Dear Editor if you’re pitching to an editor or publisher.

It’s possible that you want your email to be opened by one of two or three editors, directors, salespeople, etc. so a generic greeting could work, but our advice is to use it as an absolute last resort when you need to be formal.

Subject

Dear Mr. [Surname],

Even more formal than addressing someone by their first name or job title is using their title and surname to start an email.

It can work in some circumstances, but you need to be very sure that you get the title right; the person could have a more specific honorific such as Doctor, Professor, or Councilperson, and not using it could show a lack of attention to detail.

Subject

Dear Mrs. [Surname],

This shares the same level of formality as the last email opening line that we looked at.

There are even more pitfalls to be wary of, although again you can still use it if the circumstances are right.

First, you need to be completely certain of the person’s gender identity and second, you need to be sure that they choose to use Mrs. – not all married women do.

As a good rule of thumb, if the person has specifically given you this title, in a contact form or on recent official documents, then it shouldn’t be a problem to use Dear Mrs Chan.

Subject

Dear Ms. [Surname],

We’re on the same level of formality as the previous two ways to start an email but on slightly less shaky ground.

Again, there is an assumption of gender here that you need to be careful with.

On social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter, it’s becoming more common for people to note their pronouns so it’s worth checking what you can find and use this if someone goes by she/her.

Let’s take the level of formality down a couple of notches with our next batch of email openers.  

Use Case #2: Starting an Email to Work Colleagues

Emailing your work colleagues and existing work contacts can be a minefield; you have to have a solid understanding of the type of relationship you have with people.

You have a few options depending on whether you’re emailing your desk buddy or your C-suite report.

Subject

Hey,

You may be surprised to see Hey, in our list since lots of places will tell you to avoid it.

However, we think that when you’re addressing your workmates or people you’ve worked with before, this can make perfect sense.

Would you call over to them, “Hey Raj, grab me a coffee when you’re out for lunch”?

In speaking to a person, we use it to get someone’s attention so it’s less unexpected in a work email when there’s an existing relationship.

Author’s Note: You could use this, or one of the other “Hey…” email opening sentences in cold outreach if it fits with your branding to be relaxed and informal – knowing your target audience and how they want to be addressed is key here.

Subject

Hey [Name],

Once you’ve got your conversation off in the right way, this opening line for an email is great to keep it relaxed.

Avoid it for a potential client, but after working with them for a while you may be able to move to this structure.

Subject

Hey [Name]!

Add the exclamation mark after the name of the person here is quite excited and open.

We have cautioned about being too excited in your email opening line, this is probably as far as you’d take it and, once again, stick with using it with people you already have an open business or working relationship with.

Subject

[Name],

Just using the recipient’s first name can come across as quite blunt in formal settings like discussing a contract or a workplace issue.

However, it can also be viewed as professional and to the point – it could lead to future emails not even having an informal salutation once you get to just first name terms!

Moving on to email opening lines when you’re working to build a business relationship.

Use Case #3: Email Greetings for Cold Outreach

When you want to launch a marketing campaign, send a press release, start a link-building campaign, or send a sales email, you need to send cold outreach emails.

There’s a fine line to draw when choosing the perfect way to start your email because it will say a lot about you and your brand.

For a formal-style cold email, you can use one of our formal salutations above; these ones are more on the side of business-casual.

Subject

Hi,

Saying a simple Hi is a friendly and open way to begin your pitch or kick off a working relationship.

What’s missing here is personalization.

Personalized emails get a higher response rate, up to one-third higher, in fact, according to a study by Backlinko.

Subject

Hi there,

This is an extended version of the last one and does work when you don’t have the name of who you’re contacting.

It’s inoffensive and shouldn’t generate any backlash, but it’s also pretty generic and isn’t going to get people talking about you.

Subject

Hi [Name],

Having that personal touch in your cold email shows the person you do your research right out the gate.

Combining the personalisation with a simple Hi gives that approachable vibe, like the friendly person across the co-working space or salesperson helping you buy your next car.

You can’t go far wrong with a Hi Kim.

Subject

Hello,

If there were a scale of formal greeting, Hello would probably sit somewhere between Hi and Dear.

Think about it, can you remember the last time you said Hello that wasn’t answering a phone call?

This one is also kinda ok for an email campaign but you’re really hoping that they get to the body of the email to impress them.

Subject

Hello [Name],

More personal because you’re adding their name into the mix, you’re still somewhere in the middle of the formal email salutation scale.

Let’s see how greetings work when you’re emailing more than one person.

Use Case #4: Start an Email to a Group of People

Lots of times in business you need to open up an email to the floor, so to speak.

Business communication between three or more people requires some tact in that all-important first sentence, especially if you don’t have close contact with some people.

These are our take on addressing a group by email. 

Subject

Hi everyone,

This is probably the best email opener when you’re bringing together people for the first time.

How so?

It lets everyone in the email group know that there are multiple people reading all comms, it’s perfectly gender-neutral, and it’s the right side of “just a little bit formal” when you’re at the introductions stage.

Subject

Hi team,

When you want to place emphasis on everyone in the email thread working for a common goal, Hi team works great.

It’s another gender-neutral one so no one will feel alienated in a mixed group, too.

Subject

Hi folks,

Resist the temptation to start with Hi guys and hit the same note with Hi folks whilst making no assumptions.

This works when the group in the email knows each other well yet doesn’t step over any boundaries of email etiquette.

Subject

Hey folks,

Use this when you’re writing emails to a group of people you’re familiar with and chat about business and collaboration often.

Again, we don’t think Hey is out of place in business emails as long as it matches the working relationship and your brand.

Our last use case is what to do when you don’t know the recipient’s name.

Use Case #5: How to Begin an Email with No Contact Name

There are times when you don’t know exactly who you should be emailing but you still need to get a message to someone.

We’ve got some options to cover you – and noted a few ideas as we’ve gone through other use cases here – but we urge you to use them as a last resort.

Always try to find the name of who you need to speak to, whether by using Respona, searching through company employees on LinkedIn, or simply calling the office to ask for a name.

If all else fails, here are our best ways to start an email without a contact name.

Subject

Good morning,

This is a bright and fresh way to start an email.

Try to use it when you’re pretty sure you know the person will see this email in the morning because it could feel jarring to see morning at 3pm.

Similarly, if you’re using an automated outreach tool like Respona, emails aren’t always sent as soon as you confirm your campaign, so be cautious with this one.

Subject

Good afternoon,

Take the same caution as the previous one when starting your business email with Good afternoon.

Another thing to be aware of when using times of the day in your email is the recipient’s time zone.

Working in an international business or with transcontinental clients, for example, can make using a time of day a risk.

Subject

Good evening,

It’s pretty bad form to send business correspondence starting Good evening since we all need some work-life balance.

There are good and bad times to send an email and anytime after office hours is unlikely to get read – it’ll be buried by early morning emails by the time your recipient gets to their desk.

We’re putting it in here as an option in case you’re running an email marketing campaign and want to reach consumers after work, but that’s the only time we’d suggest using it.

Subject

Dear [Job Title],

Yes, we’ve covered Dear Hiring Manager and the like further up, but we think it’s worth adding to this use case too.

With so many tools available to help you find the right person to email, you shouldn’t have to resort to using someone’s position without a name.

It’s good to have up your sleeve for emergency situations, so we’re including it here for you.

That’s all the ways to start an email that we have for you, let’s sign off on this piece.

Now Over to You

Those are the best email opening lines for you to use.

Crafting the perfect email is tricky but getting off on the right foot in terms of tone, style, and level of formality with these openers is a good start.

Of course, you want to get the rest of your email on point and get your follow-up email ready to get replies too.

A good opening line is a useful place to start and we hope you’ve got every option you need at your fingertips.

Still struggling with getting the right name to add to your emails?

Respona is a modern email outreach tool that can help you find the right business email contacts with a powerful automated system.

Book a demo with us to see how we can help you make contact with the right people.

Farzad Rashidi

Article by

Farzad Rashidi

Farzad Rashidi is the co-founder of Respona, the all-in-one digital PR and link-building software that combines personalization with productivity. He also runs the marketing efforts at Visme, where he helped the company gain over 8 million users and pass 2M monthly organic traffic. Since then, he’s been helping other companies achieve the same success via Respona.

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