Greetings in English in business correspondence [2024]

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Greetings in business correspondence establish the tone for all future communication. While in Russian we are accustomed to writing “Good afternoon” or “Hello”, English presents a more nuanced landscape. Depending on the status of your recipient, the subject of the email, and the ultimate communication goal, there are numerous variations of words and phrases you can utilize.

In Western culture, such details hold considerable significance; therefore, selecting the correct greeting is seen as good etiquette. This article will explore different variations and provide examples for each, enhancing the professionalism and correctness of your business correspondence in English.

“Dear,” “Hi,” or “Hello”

Barbara Pachter, a Western expert on business correspondence and etiquette, suggests a basic set of phrases for greetings in business letters:

  • Hi, [name]
  • Dear, [name]
  • Hello, [name]
  • Greetings, [name]
  • Hi, everyone

At first glance, it appears as simple as choosing an option without concern for the recipient’s reception. However, each option serves a distinct purpose.

“Hi, [name]” – was the most popular greeting in business correspondence from 2018-2020. Recommended usage is when you’re acquainted with the recipient or have communicated with them previously. It’s warmer and friendlier, not advisable for addressing complete strangers (for cold mailings, for instance) or individuals of higher status.

“Dear, [name]” – is the optimal greeting when initiating a conversation with an unfamiliar recipient. Ideal for business mailings, commercial offers, and announcements. However, when addressing a colleague with whom you share good rapport, such a greeting might be perceived as impersonal and indicate a colder demeanor.

“Hello, [name]” – a universal greeting with a neutral tone (contrasting the friendly “Hi” and more formal “Dear”). However, native English speakers, especially those from western countries, use it sparingly, as it leans towards British English.

“Hi, everyone” – this is the best greeting when your letter is addressed to a group of people. It’s one of the most common business greetings when addressing multiple recipients.

Avoid addressing recipients as “All” as it can come off as impolite, or those that overemphasize the recipients’ gender (“Ladies,” “Gentlemen”).

An important note: Adding the abbreviated honorifics “Mr.” or “Ms.” to a greeting can shift the tone, making it friendlier or more formal.

“Hi Mr. [name], …” — this greeting is perfect for sending ‘cold’ messages when you don’t know the recipient or their last name well. Don’t hesitate to ask which forms of address the recipient prefers.

Inappropriate Greetings in Business Letters

In formal English, there are phrases you should absolutely avoid in business communication:

  • Hey!
  • To whom it may concern, …
  • [Misspelled Name], …
  • Dear Sir/Madam, …
  • Hi [abbreviated name], …

The greeting “Hey!” is too informal for business correspondence. “To whom it may concern, …” is an outdated phrase seldom used nowadays.

Misspelling names is also considered bad manners. If the recipient has a complex foreign name, it’s better to use a more generic greeting like “Hello” to avoid any negative repercussions from spelling errors.

The greeting “Dear Sir/Madam, …” is frequently used by non-native English speakers and can be perceived as patronizing by some British or American recipients.

Lastly, refrain from abbreviating a name unless the person has introduced themselves that way. For example, if your recipient’s name is Benjamin, you should not address them as “Ben” unless they’ve signed their letter as such.

In Conclusion

The language of business communication is continually evolving, keeping pace with modern trends. For instance, the classic “Dear” is losing favor, while “Hi” and “Hello” are becoming increasingly popular in business correspondence. By choosing reliable and acceptable forms of address, you can uphold professionalism in your business communication.

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