In written business correspondence, it’s common to use a salutation when you start and end the letter or email. The salutation you use to start your message sets the tone for the rest of the correspondence.
Before beginning your communication, it’s important to have an understanding of who you’re writing to, and what level of formality you need to use for this kind of communication. While many organizations use formal language in their business communications, there are also many companies where casual business language is acceptable and encouraged.
Select a Business Letter Greeting
The business salutations you use to start your message will depend on whether you know the name of the person you’re writing to. Whenever possible, it’s best to address your letter or email to a specific person. This way the message grabs their attention. However, if you don’t know their name, there are a few formal options you can use: “To Whom It May Concern,” “Dear Sir or Madam,” “Greetings” and “Hello.”
If you do know the name of the person you’re addressing your correspondence to, be sure to spell it correctly. Misspelling someone’s name in a business setting shows carelessness or even a lack of respect.
Here are some formal salutation examples you can use when you know the name of the person you’re writing to: “Dear [name],” “To [name]” and “Hello [name].” Depending on your relationship with the recipient, you may be able to use their first name. If it’s a very formal relationship, then you may be better off using “Mr.,” “Mrs.” or “Ms.,” followed by their last name.
Some typical casual business examples include “Hi [name]” and “Hey [name].” Only use these if you know the culture of the organization well and can confirm that it is a casual one. You shouldn't use these kinds of salutations on formal correspondence such as a cover letter, letter of recommendation or letter of inquiry, regardless of how casual the organization is. It's best to use these casual salutations only in instances where you have an established business relationship.
Try These Business Letter Closings
When signing off on your letter or email, be sure to use a closing that matches the tone you’ve used in the salutation and body of the letter. For example, if you started the email with a casual, “Hi [name],” then you probably shouldn’t use a formal business letter closing like “Respectfully yours.”
These business letter closings can be used in more formal letters and emails: “Sincerely," “Respectfully yours,” “Best regards,” “Kind regards,” “Very respectfully,” “Faithfully yours” and “Yours sincerely.” This kind of tone is best for organizations where formal correspondence is the norm, or for documents of a more formal nature, such as cover letters.
Here are a few closing examples to try in informal correspondence: “Thanks,” “Many thanks,” “Best” and “Best wishes.” These kinds of business letter closings are best used in companies that have a business casual atmosphere, and with people with whom you have an established bond. Do not use a casual tone for signing off important formal documents.
Anam Ahmed is a Toronto-based writer and editor with over a decade of experience helping small businesses and entrepreneurs reach new heights. She has experience ghostwriting and editing business books, especially those in the "For Dummies" series, in addition to writing and editing web content for the brand. Anam works as a marketing strategist and copywriter, collaborating with everyone from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups, lifestyle bloggers to professional athletes. As a small business owner herself, she is well-versed in what it takes to run and market a small business. Anam earned an M.A. from the University of Toronto and a B.A.H. from Queen's University. Learn more at www.anamahmed.ca.