The crucial email salutation etiquette rules to appropriately greet your recipients. The rules for politely starting an email.

What email salutation etiquette is

An email salutation is the greeting at the beginning of the email. Email salutation etiquette is the set of rules to properly start an email and greet the recipients. Such rules help us avoid behaviors that may make us look impolite or inappropriate. They include:

  • The appropriate greetings to start an email with.
  • Which salutations should be used in formal or informal emails.
  • The mistakes to avoid.

When you write an email, follow the salutation etiquette rules to use appropriate forms and avoid upsetting the recipients.

rules to choose the appropriate salutation and greeting to start an email

Email salutation etiquette rules

1) Salutations for formal emails

The most appropriate salutation in formal emails is “Dear” followed by the full name of the recipient. “Dear Jane Doe” or “Dear John Doe”.

Using titles is perfectly appropriate. However, use titles only when you are sure about their correctness. For example, do not use “Dear Mr. Doe” or “Dear Mrs. Doe” if you are unsure about the gender your recipient identifies with. Similarly, do not use “Dear Professor Doe” or “Dear Doctor Doe” unless you are sure that the professional title is correct.

When the tone of the email is formal but friendly, it is perfectly acceptable to use “Hello” followed by the first name or the full name of the recipient. Such as “Hello Jane” or “Hello Jane Doe”.

Greetings such as “Good morning” or “Good evening” are appropriate too in formal emails. In general, such salutations are more friendly than “Dear” but more formal than “Hello”.

2) Salutations for informal emails

“Hello” or “Good morning” are perfect salutations for informal emails. “Hi” is very informal, but still appropriate for a workplace with a friendly and informal culture. “Hey” is very informal and is appropriate only when writing to friends.

3) Use the right name in the email salutation

Misspelling someone’s name is one of the worst etiquette breaches that we can make. It conveys a lack of respect for the recipient, who will consequently be less likely to trust us and our message.

Before sending an email, check multiple times that you included the right name in the salutation. Check that you spelled it right. Train yourself to check the name before pushing the “send ” button.

If the recipient has a name that is difficult to spell, such as foreign names, do not write it. Instead, copy and paste it from the email address or the email signature of the person. This way you can avoid any risk of misspelling the name.

4) Slang greetings

Slang greetings are acceptable only among young people in very informal messages. If you are approaching maturity, it is best to avoid them altogether.

5) Email salutations when you do not know the name

Avoid salutations such as “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam”, as they are overused and mostly perceived negatively. “To whom it may concern” or similar salutations appear lazy, as the sender did not care to confirm the name of the recipient. “Dear Sir or Madam” is no longer appropriate due to gender equality etiquette, as it may exclude non-binary recipients.

Instead, prefer a formal salutation, such as “Hello” or “Good afternoon”, without following it with a name.

6) Salutation in an email thread

When replying to an email, we should include a salutation only in the first reply. In any subsequent email of the same thread, it is not necessary to keep including the same salutation. 

How to deal with inappropriate email salutations

When someone uses a too-informal salutation in an email, the best etiquette is to correct them indirectly. Reply to the email using a formal salutation. The other person should take the cue.

email salutation etiquette mistakes

Email salutation etiquette: the worst mistakes

The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors. 

A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. Read more about the Rude Index and its methodology here.  

Avoid the worst email salutation etiquette mistakes: 

  • 9/10. Misspelling the recipient’s name.
  • 7/10. Using a too informal salutation.
  • 4/10. Using a generic formula when you do not know the name.


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