How to Start an Email | 10 Greetings & Opening Lines
Sending good emails is an important skill in academic and professional contexts. It’s essential to start your emails on the right foot with an appropriate greeting and an engaging opening line.
Below, we explore how to start an email, providing five professional greetings and five strong opening lines that you can use in your correspondence. We also explain the contexts where each one would be an appropriate choice.
5 strong greetings (salutations)
For your email’s greeting (also called a salutation), you don’t need to do anything fancy. Keep it simple and choose one of the tried and tested greetings below based on the context and the level of formality you’re aiming for.
1. Dear [full name],
Greeting the recipient by their full name is best when you haven’t previously interacted with them.
Use “Dear,” not the less formal greetings “Hello” and “Hi,” alongside someone’s full name to avoid creating a jarring combination of different levels of formality. Also avoid using this option if you’ve interacted with the person previously, as it comes across as overly stiff.
2. Dear [title and last name],
Using an abbreviated title (such as “Ms.” or “Dr.”) followed by the person’s last name is another way of greeting someone formally. This can be a good option to show respect to a superior in some context—for example, when writing to your professor at university. It’s also a formal way of addressing someone you’ve never interacted with before.
Use of titles like this is often considered somewhat old-fashioned, though. As such, it’s best saved for contexts in which you haven’t interacted with the person before or want to show a special level of respect.
3. Hi [first name],
People sometimes assume that all emails sent in a professional context need to be formal in tone, but this isn’t the case in most workplaces today. If you’ve had some previous interaction with a person, it’s normally fine to just greet them by their first name, preceded by “Hi,” “Hello,” or the slightly more formal “Dear.”
This kind of informal greeting is not appropriate in all contexts. If you’re applying for a job or contacting someone you don’t know, it’s best to go for something more formal. This kind of greeting is sometimes used in marketing emails, but some might find it presumptuous—always consider your target audience.
4. Dear [team, department, or job title],
When your email is addressed to someone whose name you don’t know, to a group of people, or to an organization or department, using alternative names is an appropriate choice: the person’s job title, the name of the team, or (in a more familiar context) something more generic like “team” or “everyone.”
Do this only when you have a good reason to. If you’re writing to an individual whose name you know or can reasonably find out, it’s better to use their name than something generic like a job title.
Sometimes a simple “Hello” or “Hi” is all you need. It’s a good, straightforward choice for a quick message to someone you communicate with frequently and don’t need to show any particular formality with. It lets you get straight to the point.
Though people sometimes choose this greeting when they’re not sure whom they’re writing to, it’s not a good choice in that context, as it can come across as overly blunt. In that situation, try using a job title or department name instead, as suggested above.
5 good opening lines
The opening line of the email itself is where you can catch the reader’s attention, build a rapport, or quickly communicate what you need from them.
1. I’m reaching out …
If you want to get straight to the point but don’t want to sound overly blunt (e.g., “I need you to do x for me by Tuesday”), a phrasing using “I’m reaching out” is a good choice. It avoids wasting your or the reader’s time but still comes across as polite and thoughtful.
However, this opening only really makes sense to begin or resume a conversation, not to continue an ongoing discussion. Use this expression for an unsolicited email, not a direct reply to a previous message.
2. How are you?
A straightforward way too add a friendly personal touch to your email is to simply ask the recipient how they’re doing, how their week is going, what they did at the weekend, or something more specific if you know something about their interests. A generic “How are you?” is good enough but can seem formulaic—try emphasizing it with another sentence.
This kind of question is appropriate in an email to someone you know or work with regularly, but it will appear overfamiliar if sent to someone you’ve had no previous interaction with. Don’t open with this in your first email to someone.
3. Thanks for …
If you’re replying to someone directly, or following up on a previous discussion, one way to build a positive interaction is to thank them for their previous contribution. This could be for some information they gave you, something they did for you, or just taking the time to talk to you.
This opening obviously only makes sense if the person has done something for you. You could try thanking someone for opening your email in the first place, but it’s likely to come across as patronizing.
4. I hope you …
Simply wishing the recipient well is a good way to start an email in a friendly way. Rather than the generic “Hope you’re doing well” or the slightly stiff “I hope this email finds you well,” try a more specific phrasing to emphasize the sincerity of your wishes.
5. We met at …
When writing to someone you don’t know well but with whom you’ve had some previous interaction, or with whom you have a mutual connection, it’s a good idea to start by explaining that connection or reminding them where you’ve previously met.
If that introduction involves mentioning a mutual connection, make sure you have their permission to do so.
How not to start an email
There are many valid ways to start an email, but there are also a few common pitfalls to avoid.
Overly impersonal greeting
Greetings like “Dear Sir or Madam” and “To Whom It May Concern” are best avoided whenever possible. Besides sounding quite old-fashioned, they show the recipient that you’re not sure exactly whom you’re contacting. Always address the recipient by name if you can find it out; use something like a job title if not.
No greeting at all
Starting an email without any sort of greeting line is rarely appropriate in a professional context. While you might sometimes skip the greeting in personal emails to someone you know well, in a work email you should always have some kind of greeting, whether formal (e.g., “Dear Ms. Aoki”) or casual (e.g., “Hi John”).
Consider whether your opening really adds anything of value or just wastes the reader’s time. Statements announcing what you’re going to do next in the email are usually unnecessary. Try cutting them out entirely.
- Let me introduce myself. My name is …
- I know you’re very busy, but do you have time to help me with something? I was wondering …
- Could you possibly do me a favor? I’d like to …
Other interesting language articles
If you want to know more about commonly confused words, definitions, and differences between US and UK spellings, make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations, examples, and quizzes.
Frequently asked questions
- How do you start a professional email greeting?
You should start a professional email with a greeting and the name and title of the recipient (e.g., “Dear Mr. Walken”). Then, you should include an introductory line like I hope this email finds you well, followed by the body of the email.
For less formal emails, you can use a more casual introductory line like I hope you’re doing well.
- What’s the difference between “Miss” and “Ms.”?
Miss is a title for an unmarried woman or girl, especially one under the age of about 30 (e.g., “Miss Jones”). It cannot be used for a married woman. It is sometimes seen as slightly old-fashioned, since it defines the woman by her marital status.
Ms. is a title for a woman whose marital status is unknown, for an older unmarried woman, or for any woman in a context where you don’t want to emphasize the woman’s marital status. It’s intended to be neutral, in that it can be used for married and unmarried women alike—much like “Mr.” can be used for married and unmarried men.
- What is a synonym for “I hope this email finds you well”?
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