Email Salutations: How to Start a Formal or Informal Email
Various words and phrases may be used to begin an email, depending on how formal (or informal) the relationship is. Dear So-and-So (with the person’s title and last name or their full name) generally begins a formal email. Informal emails can start with Dear <first name> or a casual Hi, Hello, or Greetings. You may also use a salutation like Good Morning or Good Afternoon, but keep in mind any time zone differences when you refer to time of day.
- Dear Mr. Dash:
- Hi Anita,
- Hello Ms. Dash,
- Dear Anita,
- Good Afternoon,
- Dear Students,
Both personal and business correspondence can be formal or informal, depending on how close the relationship is. Using an appropriate salutation can set the right tone for your email.
|Formal||Dear <full name>, Dear <title and last name>|
|Informal||Hi, Hello, Greetings, Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Dear <first name>|
If making a good first impression is important (e.g., in a college or job application), avoid using impersonal forms of address like Dear Sir or Madam or To Whom It May Concern. Such salutations can sound careless, since they imply that you did not make the effort to find out the name of the person you were addressing. In situations where personal details are not available or if you are addressing a group, you may use a common noun instead (Dear Editor, Dear Visitor, Dear Students), although you should always prefer to address your recipient directly by name.
Comma vs. colon after a salutation
You can use either a comma (,) or a colon (:) after a salutation at the start of an email. In American usage, a colon follows a salutation in formal correspondence (e.g., a business email), while an informal greeting ends in a comma. In British usage, commas are used after both formal and informal greetings.
- Informal: Hi Rita,
- Informal: Hello Mr. Dash,
- Informal: Good Morning,
- Informal: Dear Rita,
- Formal (American): Dear Dr. Dash:
- Formal (American): Dear Prof. Lobo:
- Formal (American): Dear Minerva Dash:
- Formal (American): Dear Students:
- Formal (British): Dear Dr Dash,
- Formal (British): Dear Prof. Lobo,
- Formal (British): Dear Minerva Dash,
- Formal (British): Dear Students,
When you address someone, use a period after a contracted title like Mr. and Dr. in American style but not in British style. However, if the shortened form comprises only the first part of the word (like Prof.), use a period in both British and American writing.
Comma after hi
You may either omit or place the comma between hi and a person’s name in email salutations, depending on preference.
- Correct: Hi Maya,
- Correct: Hi, Maya,
- Correct: Hello Rita,
- Correct: Hello, Rita,
Although commas are generally used before a name in direct address (“Hi, Rita”), it has long been accepted style to omit the comma after hi or hello in emails. After all, greetings like hi are seen only in informal emails or messages, where a relaxed punctuation style is acceptable.
Style authorities like the Chicago Manual of Style and AP Stylebook agree that using a comma after hi or hello in an email salutation depends on personal preference rather than strict rules of punctuation.
Use of capital letters
The general rule is to capitalize the words in an email salutation.
- Dear Accountholder:
- Hi Team,
- Hello Everyone,
This guidance is based on convention: words used to address someone at the start of a letter have traditionally been capitalized. But this is a matter of style rather than grammar. Style manuals like the Chicago Manual of Style and Gregg Reference Manual suggest capitalizing the words in a salutation. In contrast, the AP Stylebook suggests lowercasing common nouns in email salutations.
If a phrase like good morning stands alone in a salutation, capitalize both words. But if it is followed by a name, capitalize only the first word.
- Good Morning,
- Good morning, Dr. Dash,
Finally, while first impressions are important, so are parting ones. Read more on how to close an email with an appropriate sign-off (Regards, Yours, Sincerely, etc.).