Starting an email seems like no big deal, but your choice of words can have a massive impact on how the rest of your message is received. In this guide, we’ll analyze the importance of email greetings, and provide you with more than 50 examples of how to start an email—among them, you can find a suitable opening for just about any occasion.
Why Email Greetings Matter
Let’s start by talking about why email greetings matter in the first place. Why does this subject warrant a comprehensive, multi-thousand-word article?
- Making a first impression. Whether you’re marketing to your target audience or just reaching out to a new contact, it’s important to make a good first impression. Technically, your subject line is going to be the first thing they read, but assuming you’ve mastered that and they’ve opened your email, your greeting and opening few lines will set them with an immediate impression of who you are and how you operate.
- Setting a tone. Your email greeting is also an opportunity to set the tone for the rest of your conversation. Depending on the circumstances, you may wish to set a formal, serious tone, or something informal to the point of being lighthearted. This can radically shape how the rest of your message is taken; if you don’t set a formal enough tone, your offer might not be taken seriously. If you speak to stiffly and professionally, your personal invitation might be declined.
- Building a personal brand. Choosing greetings and openings can also help you shape and refine your own personal brand. As you communicate with people regularly, they’ll pick up on the common greetings you like to use, and will roll those into their understanding of your personality, goals, and values. It’s a subtle effect, but one worth considering.
Yet despite these important effects, email greetings and salutations remain an area that’s commonly neglected. Many modern workers write emails without giving their openings so much as a second thought.
How to Start an Email Professionally (How to Start a Business Email)
Let’s start with some of the tried-and-true email greetings—the snippets of text you include at the beginning of every email. These are some of the most commonly used email greetings, and for good reason—they’re some of the simplest and most reliable ways to start a business or professional email.
1. Hi (name)
Short, sweet, and simple, it doesn’t get much easier than this. “Hi” is innocuous and friendly, without sacrificing formality, and the addition of a person’s name makes it personal. Depending on the setting, you may wish to use a person’s first name or title and surname; this is true for any instances of “name” in this list.
2. Hello (name)
This greeting serves the same purpose, but the additional length of the word “hello’ makes it a bit more formal.
3. Dear (name)
A vestigial greeting from the days of handwritten letters, “dear” is useful if your email has a letter-like structure. It can also be used to distinguish your emails from those of other professionals, or to appeal to customers with a friendly opening.
For me, “greetings” feels a little too Martian-like, but it’s an acceptable and common email opening. It’s best when introducing yourself for the first time or reaching out to someone for the first time in a while.
Even simpler, you can simply start with the person’s name. It might read as a bit cold, but it’s widely used.
If you’re emailing multiple people at once, you won’t have the opportunity to call out a specific name. Instead, you can greet the entire group with something like “Hello all,” or “Hi everyone.” It’s a simple modification to accommodate your needs.
There are some other examples of basic greetings you can use, but unless you’re being cheeky, or you’re eager to stand out in some distinct way, it’s best to stick with one of these.
How to Start an Email: Comma, Colon, or Exclamation Point?
Whether you’re using one of the above email salutations or one of your own, you’ll be left with a critical punctuation decision: should you use a comma, a colon, or an exclamation point to end your greeting?
From a pure etiquette standpoint, there’s no taboo punctuation mark. You aren’t going to offend someone by adding an exclamation point to the end of your greeting. However, there are some subtle connotations to each punctuation mark you’ll want to consider.
The colon is very formal, but almost overly so. A colon might be good for starting something especially serious, or for emailing with a person or organization you know is old-fashioned. However, for most other people, it might feel a little cold and impersonal.
At the other end of the spectrum is the exclamation point. An exclamation point conveys excitement, and can be used to indicate enthusiasm. For personal contacts and informal conversations, this can work, but in a professional setting, it can make you seem overeager or immature. Use it wisely.
The best standby, and the perfect choice if you’re not sure what to do, is the comma. It’s formal without being cold, and is so commonly used you can guarantee nobody’s going to scrutinize it.
Ways to Start a Formal Email
Now that your greeting is out of the way, you can work on creating an introduction. These introductory sentences are ideal ways to start an email for formal occasions—which should be your default if you don’t know the person with whom you’re engaging. They’re a good segue from your generic greeting to the core content of your message:
7. I hope this email finds you well.
This is a simple gesture of well-wishes that can instantly make the rest of your message seem warmer. It’s also vague enough that you don’t need to be personally involved in your recipient’s life, or sacrifice formality for friendliness.
8. Good morning/afternoon/evening.
Shorter openings are generally better, especially when one of your priorities is preserving formality. A “good morning” (substituted with the appropriate time of day) is all it takes to make your message warm.
9. Allow me to introduce myself…
This only works if you’re actually introducing yourself; your boss of 10 years probably won’t find this funny. It’s also a way to soften whatever your request is.
10. How are you?
You probably won’t get an answer, but that’s not really the point.
11. How was your vacation/weekend/etc.?
Be careful with this one; you don’t want to seem intrusive. But if this person made it clear they were going on vacation, it’s fine (and compliant with the rules of formality) to ask about it. Feel free to ask about their weekend too—again, as long as it isn’t intrusive.
12. I hope your week is going smoothly.
Questions can be intrusive, but statements can’t. A safer bet may be to say something like, “I hope your week is going well!”
13. I’m emailing you to…
This is great if you’re trying to cut to the chase. Most professionals appreciate conciseness, so use this introduction to get to your main point.
14. I’m hoping to get your input on…
This is also a way to get to the point, especially if you’re making a request or an inquiry.
15. It’s my pleasure to inform you…
Somewhat situational, this works great if you’re informing someone that they’ve won a bid, or that they’ve been selected for a job.
Formal Ways to Start an Email Response
If you’re responding to someone else’s email, you’ll need to modify your opening slightly. These email greetings are still ideal for formal situations, but are better suited for a response:
16. It’s great to hear from you.
You can tinker with this opening to get it just right, so long as you’re conveying the same idea; you’re glad this person emailed you.
17. Thanks for your email.
This offers something similar (and you’ll see it coming up again and again). Expressing gratitude can help you with everything from landing a better impression to getting more sales.
18. Thank you for the quick response.
Situationally, this can help you acknowledge the person’s efforts in responding to you or reacting to a new prompt.
19. Thanks for getting in touch.
Another variant on the “thank you” theme that might suit your needs perfectly.
20. I appreciate the update.
If someone provides you with raw information and you don’t know what to say, this can help you fill in the gap.
21. I apologize for the delay.
If you didn’t respond to the message right away, this short response could help you clear the air.
How to Start a Follow-up Email
There are many situations that necessitate or invite an email follow-up. These can be tricky, since they often demand a balance between outreach and restraint. Generally, you’ll stick to being formal in this situation, with an email opening like one of these:
22. Just checking in…
You’ll need to add a bit more to this to make it work, but it’s a fairly unassuming opening that can help you establish your main priority in reaching out.
23. I wanted to follow up with you.
Similarly, this phrase establishes your main goal. Assuming your original message is clear, there shouldn’t be any miscommunication.
24. As we discussed in our last meeting.
In case you aren’t sure the person remembers your last meeting, or if you want to recap your last discussion, this is a good lead-in.
25. As promised…
If you have something deliver, or some new information to share, the simple “as promised” phrase gives you a good segue.
26. Could you provide me with an update?
If you’re making a simple request, you may not need much more than this in the body of your message.
27. I wanted to get back to you about…
This is ideal if you have something to add, or if you’ve learned new information you didn’t have in the past.
28. Thank you for your time.
Remember, expressing gratitude can have a massive impact on how well you’re received. Thanking someone for their time, whether it was spent in a meeting, phone call, or just an email exchange, can make your follow-up seem warmer.
29. Are you still interested?
If you’re not sure this person wants to continue the conversation, a simple “are you still interested?” can give them an easy out. It also works well as a sales email subject line—but you can read more about sales email subject lines in our comprehensive guide.
Informal Ways to Start an Email
If you know the person you’re emailing, or if your company culture is relatively relaxed, you can get away with some of these informal email openings:
30. Congratulations on (accomplishment)!
You might not want to get involved in the details of someone’s personal life or professional successes unless you know them. But in an informal setting, it can work wonders. Congratulate someone, and they’ll likely read the rest of your message with a smile on their face.
31. How are the kids?
Again, asking someone about their personal life is dangerous territory if you don’t know them. But if you’ve had friendly conversations in the past, this can be a good thing.
32. I saw your post on (social media).
This works if there’s a contextual link between the post and your message. For example, if they recently posted an article about the importance of time management, you can tell them about a new tool you’ve found to analyze the amount of time they’re spending each day.
33. How was the trip?
If you know the person well enough to know they went on a trip, you can ask about it.
34. I was just thinking about you.
Assuming you have a good reason to reach out other than this, this message can be a near-perfect opening.
35. It was great to see you at (event).
Hypothetically, event follow-ups like this can work in a formal setting. However, it’s included here because it’s often done in a casual way.
36. I saw this (media) and thought of you.
You might think of including an attachment, gif, or YouTube link—especially if you have a good reason for bringing it up.
37. (Contact) suggested I get in touch with you!
As a networking email in an informal setting, this opening line is awesome. If you need help polishing the rest of your approach, you can read more tips in this guide on subject lines for networking emails.
38. Sorry it took me a while to get back to you.
A less formal version of the “delay apology,” this opening can help you acknowledge a lengthy passage of time between your last message and this one.
Funny and Personal Ways to Start an Email
If you’re friends with the person you’re emailing, or if you’re trying to come across as friendly and sociable, you can use one of these funny or highly personal ways of starting an email. Just make sure you’re not using these with someone you don’t know very well, and entirely avoid them in situations that demand seriousness or formality.
39. Yep, it’s me again.
If you’re emailing someone in high volume, this can make light of the situation.
40. X days until Friday.
Yes, we all love Friday and count down to it. You might as well acknowledge it (even if it’s a bit trite).
41. Don’t worry, I’ll keep this brief.
A fun way to insist you won’t be wasting this person’s time, it’s a good introduction to a short email.
42. Yet another message to bog down your inbox.
We all wrestle with overflowing inboxes, but this message lets the recipient know that you understand their plight.
43. Hopefully, you’ve had your coffee this morning.
I can’t say I’m a big fan of this joke, but if this person is the type to describe themselves in terms of pre-caffeine and post-caffeine personalities, it might work well.
44. Are you surviving yet another workweek?
If work seems like a drudgery some days, this opening can make things a little lighter.
45. I hope you’re sitting down.
This is a common phrase used before revealing some surprising or exciting news. If you have something important to share, this may be a good way to lead into it. Just make sure you’re not using email for gossiping purposes.
46. [Any inside joke].
Do you have an inside joke with a close colleague or a friendly boss? Feel free to use it as a way to lead into an email—so long as that email isn’t very serious or important. A joke can make a light message easier to receive, but can turn a serious email into an object of ridicule.
Bonus: Email Greetings and Openers to Avoid at All Costs
These may technically break the rules I laid out, but I feel they’re vital to discuss in this context. In the first section, I wrote about the importance of email greetings, and in the second, I gave examples of some tried-and-true greetings.
On the dark side, there are some email greetings and openers you should avoid at all costs. These email salutations are worse than neutral; they could do active harm to your reputation, or jeopardize the reception of your message.
47. [Anything that’s misspelled].
God help you if you misspell your prospect’s name. Seeing your own name misspelled gives you that cold-and-prickly feeling, and instantly sets a bad tone for the conversation. On top of that, it shows that you don’t pay attention to details, or that you’re not proofreading. Spelling errors in the body of your message might be more easily forgiven, but to leave one in the introduction is practically unforgivable.
48. Hey (nickname)!
In general, the “Hey (name)!” formula isn’t a great look. It’s okay for use with people you know well, or if you want to establish a casual, friendly relationship, but otherwise, it’s best tabled in favor of a tried-and-true greeting. It’s made even worse if you include a nickname for someone (unless you’ve personally verified that this nickname is their exclusive preference). In general, you shouldn’t give someone a nickname or shorten their name unless they tell you to; Nicole doesn’t automatically become Nicki, and Michael doesn’t automatically become Mike. If you’re not sure what this person prefers, watch their email signature, and err on the side of full names and formality.
49. To whom it may concern.
A phrase of choice for mass messages and anonymous complaint letters, “to whom it may concern” is in most situations, a cold and lazy choice. If you can, find the name of the person you’re emailing. If this name is unavailable, a term like “everyone” or “all” will provide a better fit.
50. Dear sir or madam.
Again, this is kind of a cop-out. Do your research to find the name of the person you’re emailing, or substitute a better phrase if you’re talking to multiple people. Otherwise, you’re better off with something vague, like “Hello.”
51. Happy Monday!
Just don’t. Trust me on this one.
Now that you know all about how to start an email with tried-and-true email greetings and salutations, are you interested in learning more about the power of your email? Do you yearn to understand how, why, and when people respond to your messages? Sign up for a free trial of EmailAnalytics, and start your journey today. With EmailAnalytics, you’ll integrate your Gmail account and learn your average email response time, how often you send and receive emails, your busiest times and days of the week, and dozens of other important email metrics. It’s one of the most comprehensive and easiest-to-learn Gmail analytics tools on the web, and it’s completely free to try!
Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before exiting it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics.