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RMIT University Library - Learning Lab

Email greetings


The way you start your message is extremely important.

The words you use will depend on the context of:

  • how well you know the person
  • whether the person has a higher professional status than you
  • whether you know the person’s name and/or gender.

In business communication, it is advisable to use a more formal style.

Salutation Context Description

Dear Sir/Madam


When you don’t know the name of the person you are writing to.

Dear Mr. Smith

Formal (Male)

When you know the family name.

Dear Ms. Mendez

Formal (Female)

When you know the family name

(N.B. ‘Ms’ now more commonly used than ‘Miss’ or ‘Mrs’).

Dear Dr. Shrestha


When you know the family name and professional title.

Dear Yamabishi Jun


When you don’t know which name is the family name, use the names as you have them.

(N.B. many cultures put their family name first. As an ‘outsider’ you probably won’t know which name is which. Do not assume which is the family name and which is the first name).

Dear Harpreet


When you know the first name and it is culturally appropriate to use the first name.

Hello Jerry


When you know the person’s first name.

Hi Jerry

Very informal

Use only when you know the person well.

Hey Jerry

Extremely informal

Only use with people you know very, very well.

Not usually used in professional or workplace emails.