How To Start an Email (With Tips and Examples)

How To Start an Email (With Tips and Examples)
Jobstreet content teamupdated on 12 January, 2024
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Starting a formal email may seem like a simple task, but it plays a huge role in effective communication. It impacts the recipient's initial impression of you and how they respond to your message. You're more likely to receive a favourable response if you take the time to learn how to start a professional email the right way.

In this article, learn how to craft a proper greeting and opening to make a good impression on the recipient. Discover tips for writing these sections in a friendly and professional manner. Here's what this article will cover:

The first impression in email communication

The first thing your recipient sees when they open your email is your greeting and the opening  line of your message.  These initial elements of your email, shape the recipient's first impression of you. They convey professionalism and courtesy, showcasing that you mean business and are considerate in your communication. Just as a firm handshake does in person.

Sending good emails is an important skill in this digital age. It helps you to build trust and rapport with people without face-to-face interaction. This is especially important in the workplace when you can't always meet a client or colleague in person. And if you're applying for a job or responding to an interview invitation, a well-written email can make all the difference.

How to start an email

Here are steps you can follow when starting a formal email:

Know your audience

Your familiarity with the recipient determines the tone of your email. You can use a more casual, informal greeting if you know them well. If you're sending a message to a client or someone you're not very familiar with, a more formal approach is better.

Keep the email concise

Like writing a letter, a short email is often more effective. It allows you to get your message across more quickly. If your email includes a lot of information, break it into shorter paragraphs. Use bullet points and numbered lists to make your email easier to digest. Keep your message short and straight to the point.

Use a polite and professional tone

Use respectful and appropriate language. When writing professional emails, use correct spelling. Avoid using slang or jargon, especially if you're writing to someone who doesn't know you well. Refrain from using emoticons, exclamation marks, and other emotive language because this can come across as unprofessional.

Create a clear subject line

The first thing your recipient sees when they open their inbox is the subject of your email. Make this concise and easy to understand. A length of around 50 characters (roughly 8-10 words) is acceptable. This can help the recipient determine if the email is relevant to them and what action they should take.

Include a clear call to action

A call to action is a suggestion to act in a certain way. In an email, a call to action can prompt a quick response. It may also encourage them to take another action. They may click on a link, forward the email, or complete a survey and send it back to you. When crafting your call to action, consider what you want the recipient to do and provide clear instructions on how to do it.

Proofread your email

Checking your email before sending it ensures that everything you want to include is present. It also helps you spot and correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes. An error-free email shows your professionalism and can help you make a good impression. Double-check your email aligns with your target audience, opening sentence, and final thoughts. 

How to start an email to different audiences

It's important to tailor your email to your recipient. Tailoring your email allows you to establish a mutual connection with the recipient. It also makes your message easier to relate to and understand.

Consider age, profession, and cultural background when crafting your email greeting and opening line. Take note of your relationship with the recipient, too. Here are several email greeting examples:

  • If the recipient is a close friend or colleague, you can use a friendlier and more informal approach. A greeting like "Hey" or "Hi" is perfectly acceptable.

  • If you're writing to a client or someone you have a formal relationship with, a more professional salutation is appropriate. Start your email with "Dear" or “Hello” and include their name.     

  • If you're sending an email to someone from an older generation or more old-fashioned, it's important to be respectful. Use the recipient's title they use in the workplace and their surname. For example: "Dear Dr. Mohamad."

Using the recipient's title is becoming less common. Many omit this to avoid gender-specificity. However, if you know how the recipient prefers others to address them, you can include that information. 

Common mistakes to avoid

Here are some common mistakes when writing an email and ways to avoid them:

  • Not personalising the email greeting. Use the recipient's name in your email to show that you're addressing them directly. This simple step can help you make a good first impression and help get a quick response.

  • Using overly casual language in a professional setting. Write business emails in a formal tone that reflects your relationship with the recipient. An informal approach can make you seem unprofessional. If your email introduction gives off the wrong tone, you risk the recipient misunderstanding your message or not respecting its importance.

  • Getting the recipient's name wrong. This can make a negative impression because it shows that you didn't take the time to personalise your message. Having a misspelt name is another mistake to avoid. Create an error-free message and avoid this mistake by proofreading your email before sending it.

  • Not having a clear subject line. A misleading or vague subject line can confuse and even lead to the recipient ignoring your email. Make sure to indicate the purpose of your email in the subject line in a straightforward manner.

  • Formatting the email improperly. Too many fonts, colours, and images can detract from your business correspondence. Keep your formal emails simple by using only one font type and size and avoiding images or graphics.

Tips for professional email greetings

Explore these tips to discover how to start an email professionally:

  • Use the recipient's full name if you haven't previously interacted with them. This shows that you took the time to find out who they are and sets a positive tone for your message. It also helps avoid confusion, especially if there are multiple people with the same first name.

  • Use job titles, team names, or department names when writing to a group or organisation. While "Dear team" or "Hi everyone" is acceptable, it can come off as impersonal. Address the group by name, such as "Hi Marketing Team" or "Hi Team Alpha," to show that you're speaking to them directly.

  • Use a simple "Hello" or "Hi" to someone you communicate with frequently. You can be friendly in your email salutations even if it's a work email. With a close colleague and friend, you can vary your greeting style to "Good afternoon" or "Hi." Include the recipient's first name if you want to make it more personal.

Tips for strong opening lines

Here are tips to help you craft strong opening lines:

  • Use "I'm reaching out." This phrase lets the recipient know what your email is about and creates a sense of urgency. It also indicates respect for their time, which can make them more likely to respond.

  • Ask the recipient how they're doing. This simple question helps establish a connection and adds a personal touch to your email. "Good morning, how are you today?" is a great example that can generate positive responses.

  • Remind the recipient of a previous interaction. This is a good way to evoke familiarity, which can help in building trust and credibility. Use this when you're trying to re-engage a potential client or continue a conversation. You can use "In our previous email" to help grab the reader's attention.

  • Express gratitude. If you're responding to the recipient's message or action, start by thanking them for their time, effort, or input. Here's our article on writing a post-interview thank-you email that you can use as a reference.

Examples of email greetings and opening lines

Here are examples of greetings and opening lines for various types of emails and situations:

Formal business email

Keep the salutation and opening lines short for formal emails. "Dear [Name of Recipient]" and "I'm reaching out to discuss [subject]" are an acceptable combination.

Casual business email

This is a friendlier version of the previous formal greeting. Write "Hi [Recipient's First Name]" and then ask about their day with this opening line: “Good afternoon. How are you today? I hope you're doing well. I'm reaching out about [topic]."

Cold business email

If you're reaching out to someone you haven't met before, start with a formal "Dear [First Name]" or "Hello [First Name]." Then, you can introduce yourself and briefly explain your purpose for writing: "My name is [Name] and I'm reaching out about [topic]."

Group business email

Start group email greetings with "Hi [Team Name]" or address each person by their first name if the group is small. Then, let them know your intention with "I'm reaching out" or a more formal phrase, such as "I'm writing regarding [topic]," if the situation warrants it.

Email to unknown recipient

You can use "Hello" or "Good morning/afternoon/evening" to greet an unknown person. The email opening sentences can be formal or informal depending on your purpose. If you're reaching out about a business matter, an opener such as "I'm writing to ask about [topic]" is appropriate.

Job application email

Use a professional greeting that addresses the hiring manager by name and an opening line that communicates your interest in the job. An example of a good salutation is "Dear [Hiring Manager's Name]." For the opening line, a direct "I am writing to apply for the [position] at [company]" can work. You can also use "Dear hiring manager" when writing a cover letter.

Customer service email

It's important to be courteous, respectful, and professional when writing to customers. Use an appropriate greeting such as "Dear [Customer's Name]." For the opening line, "Thank you for reaching out to [company]" is a good choice.

Networking email

Starting your formal email in a friendly manner can help you make a good impression on a potential contact. You can opt for "Hello [First Name]" as the greeting and "I hope my message finds you well" as the opening line.

Conclusion

When starting a formal email, choose a greeting and opening line that reflects your relationship with the recipient. Pay close attention that you use the correct name and title, if applicable. Write professionally, be clear and concise in your message, and proofread your work before sending it. Use the opening lines we provided above when you're writing your next formal email.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are answers to some common questions about how to start an email in a formal or informal tone:

How do you start a professional email?

Use "Dear" and the recipient's name when starting a professional email. Including their first name and surname is common, but using just their first name is acceptable.

What is a good phrase to start an email?

After the greeting, start the very first sentence of your formal email with the phrase, "I'm reaching out" and state your purpose for writing. This can grab the recipient's attention. It also shows that you value the reader's time because you're getting straight to the point.  

Is it okay to use "Dear" in a professional email?

Using "Dear" is acceptable in formal email greetings. Make sure that you follow it with the recipient's name. This can include their first name and surname or just their first name. Add an honorific title only if you're sure the recipient uses it in their professional correspondence.

How should I start an email if I'm unsure of the recipient's gender?

You can use "Dear" or "Hello" and the recipient's first name in the email opener if you're unsure of their gender. You can also add their surname if you're certain of it.

Is it acceptable to start an email with "Hi" in a professional context?

Yes, you can start work-related emails with "Hi" or "Hello." You can include the first name of the recipient or leave it out, but make sure to end the greeting with a comma.

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