To "dear" or not to "dear" in your email

What salutation should you use to start a business email? 

  • Dear? 
  • Hello? 
  • Something else?

I typically open with the person’s name followed by a comma. Like this


This is how 95% of my business correspondents start their emails.

Some people use “Dear,” then the recipient’s name. That’s essential for a business letter, but it’s too intimate for a business email. At least, that’s how it feels to me.

I was surprised to see that the authors of Send: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do It Better argue for using “dear.” They don’t like my approach. They say:

For some reason, people who would never in a letter write “Jim” or “Bob” or “Mr. Smith” with no introductory word beforehand feel no hesitation in doing so in an email…. But it strikes us as rude to bark out someone’s name like that, even in an email, especially if you don’t know your correspondent.”

I reserve “Dear” for my correspondence with friends. Or for replies to emails in which I’ve been addressed as “Dear Susan.” I think it’s usually appropriate to echo the salutations used by the person with whom you’re corresponding.

I don’t have strong feelings either way about starting an email with “Hello” and then the name of the recipient. If Allan emails me with “Hello, Susan,” I’ll “Hello, Allan,” back to him.

If you read my “Should you say ‘No’ to ‘Please,’ ” you’re probably not surprised to find me disagreeing with the authors of Send, as did most of the respondents to my reader poll on the use of please in emails.

So, how would you address an email to me? Would you use one of the following salutations?

  • Dear Susan:
  • Dear Ms. Weiner:
  • Hello
  • Hi
  • Hi, Susan
  • Ms. Weiner,
  • Susan,


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