Even the presenters of Radio 4’s Today Programme are now discussing email etiquette, specifically how we should best address our reader. During a discussion on a recent Today Programme, the conclusion seemed to be that the choice of salutation is really a question of taste, intention and context although horror was expressed at the use of openings such as ‘hey’ or even ‘ho’ or closings like ‘bestest’ or BW (Best wishes).
While the presenters are right that context matters and that it is important to reflect the style and expectations of your reader, there are also some basic ground rules we should all follow when opening our emails which will help ensure that our emails are well received.
- Never miss out the salutation unless it is someone you know very well or you are exchanging quick fire emails with your reader
- If you don’t know your reader or don’t know them well it is better to play safe and use ‘Dear’
- Avoid using the reader’s name without a salutation as it can sound abrupt or directive
- As the relationship develops take your lead from your reader and mirror their use of salutations; if you find your reader says ‘hi’ to you it is ok for you to use ‘hi’ or ‘hello’ in your emails to them
- Good Morning or Good Evening can be deceptive if you are communicating across time zones. It also assumes that your recipient will be reading your message fairly soon after you have sent it
- It can be difficult to find the right salutation for group emails; Dear All is generally better than Dear Customer or Dear Colleague. Better again, to use a proper mail merge, certainly when emailing externally, so that each recipient receives a personalised salutation
- Finally, be very careful when emailing your international colleagues or customers. Your lack of formality or failure to address them properly will be picked up on immediately and could impact your future working relationship. Cross cultural communication adds yet another dimension to email etiquette.
You may think that a simple email salutation is only a couple of words and not worth debating, or even not worth using, but how you start your email sets the tone for the rest of your message and can show your reader that you are actually talking to them. Taking time to consider your use of email etiquette or attending a professional email writing course will improve they way you are perceived by your reader and how you develop your working relationships.
© Communicaid Group Ltd. 2011