Starting a conversation can be tough, especially if you’re trying to grab the attention of someone who isn’t expecting to receive an email from you. People are inundated with important communications and spam emails alike, so if you want to draw your readers in you should avoid doing anything that will make them lose interest.
With that in mind, here are a few greetings that can immediately cost you your recipient’s interest:
“To Whom It May Concern”
This greeting sounds cordial; however, it’s also rather impersonal. Sure, the correct use of the word “whom” might look nice, but that won’t do you much good if the person reading it doesn’t believe whatever comes after your greeting really doesn’t concern him or her. It’s a stiff greeting that only comes from people who don’t know the person they’re emailing.
“Dear Sir or Madam”
Like “To Whom It May Concern,” this one can sound stiff and unfriendly. If you know the name of the person you’re emailing, use it. If you don’t, try to find out specifically who you should be contacting. If neither of those is possible, try a less formal and more friendly greeting. A simple “Hello” might actually serve you better.
While our first two examples were a bit too stiff, this one goes too far in the opposite direction. “Hey” is friendly, but probably too casual if you’re not emailing a friend or close colleague you know won’t mind the informality.
Using your contact’s real name is a good way to be more personable, just make sure you’re using the right name. Calling someone the wrong name or misspelling the right one might make it look like you’re only half interested in the person you’re speaking to.
Nicknames are fine if you know the person you’re emailing, and know that he or she doesn’t mind you using a nickname, but if you don’t know the person particularly well, don’t make any assumptions. For example, if you’re emailing a man named Christopher and a woman named Susan, don’t just opt for the shorter Chris and Sue, as they may not actually like those nicknames—stick to the whole name, at least when you’re still getting to know the person.
Communicating in English can be tough, especially when you’re reaching out to someone for the first time. However, by finding the right balance between excessive formality and casualness you can avoid losing the interest of your recipients before they even reach the important part of your email.