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Writing an Email: Part 1 of 4 – Greetings

Category: Language Training | 2018-06-28

Over the next four weeks, we’ll be focusing on an important part of daily business: writing emails. Writing an email, especially in a foreign language, can be particularly daunting if you don’t feel confident enough in either your language skills or your writing skills. That’s why we’re here to help.

One of the most important aspects when writing an email, especially if you’re writing to a stranger, is your greeting. First impressions really count, especially in business, so it’s important to make a good impression on whoever you are writing to.

Here’s an example: Have you ever gotten an email from someone you don’t know with no subject line and a greeting like this, “Hey, [your name, but misspelled]”? I bet you either, a) ignored the email or, b) didn’t want to write back to them. It’s things like these that deserve a certain amount of attention when writing an email, because if you mess them up, they can leave a bad taste in the recipient’s mouth.

Here’s how to write a strong opening to a business email:

Writing an Email: The Perfect Greeting

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Step 1: Know Your Audience

Even before you write a single letter in your email, you need to know who exactly you’re writing to. This is perhaps the most important part of all, and is necessary before even writing the subject line.

There are a few questions you should ask yourself before writing an email:

– Who am I writing to?

– Do I know who I’m writing to, or are they a stranger?

– Am I writing to a group of people, or an individual?

– Should I write in a formal style, or an informal style?

Knowing exactly who will receive your email is the most important part. Make sure you spell their name correctly, and that you use their correct title. I have gotten so many emails with my name spelled incorrectly, or that call me “Mr. Duffin,” and it’s very off-putting. Don’t be that guy, and double check who you’re writing to.

If you are writing to a stranger or a group of people, there are a few greetings you can use, and most likely, you should use a more formal tone. We’ll get into greetings in a little while, though.

When deciding on whether to use a formal tone or not, there are a few things to think about. If you’re writing to a colleague who you’ve known for years, or if your company in general prefers a less formal tone, then it is perfectly acceptable to take an informal tone in your email. If you’re writing to someone who you’ve never met before, or your company prefers you to be formal, then it is best to use a formal tone until directed otherwise.

Step 2: Subject Line

Here are two examples of email subject lines that I found in my inbox last week:

  1. a) Our Appointment Next Week
  2. b) It’s confirmed! You’re eligible for Airline Credit in June

Can you guess which one I opened, and which one I deleted? It may be very obvious which one was spam, and which wasn’t, but they’re both very good examples of how to write a good, and a bad, subject line.

An email subject line should be short, concise, and to the point. Many people get a lot of emails throughout the day, and they scan the subject lines of their emails to figure out which is important and which isn’t. Try to avoid writing subject lines that are so long they get cut off, and also try to avoid using exclamation points. If I ever got an email with they subject line that said, “Hey!!! There is important information in here!!,” I probably wouldn’t open it, or would immediately delete it.

Think about which kind of subject lines get you to open an email, and use that as inspiration for your subject lines.

Step 3: Greetings

Finally, we come to writing greetings. While they might seem like the easiest part, a greeting still helps to form a good first impression, and there are a few things to be aware of.

Here are some typical email greetings and when you can use them:

– Hey – only use if you know someone really well or have a more informal relationship.

– Hi – more informal, but can be used if you have communicated with them before.

– Dear – a good catch-all phrase, can be used for people you know well, or people you don’t know at all.

– Hello – also a good catch-all phrase, can be used for people you know and for strangers.

– To whom it may concern – more formal, but it usually looks better if you do some research and find out the name of who you’re addressing.

– Dear Sir/Madam – also more formal, but I tend to avoid it, as it comes across as very impersonal, and it looks better if you do some research and find out the name of the person you’re writing to.

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Putting it all Together

As you can see, there’s a whole range of different greetings, from very informal to very formal. If you don’t know who you’re addressing, it’s always best to do a little bit of research and try to figure out a contact person and address them if possible.

After you’ve found your proper greeting, it’s time to get writing! Stay tuned next week, when we’ll walk through writing with the right tone. If you want to continue improving your Business English skills, sign up for our monthly newsletter. You’ll receive a 7-day free trial of our online English course and get more tips, articles and exclusive deals. Thanks for reading!

Cheers!

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2 thoughts on "Writing an Email: Part 1 of 4 – Greetings"

  1. Mohammed says:

    Thanks to the wonderful guide

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