How To Deal with the Salutation in an E-mail to a Prospective Client

Dear Jodee,

When I’m responding to freelance writing job ads, I don’t always have a contact name for the client. How do I handle the salutation?

Will Write for Money

Dear Money Writer,

E-mail is a little different from sending a letter by regular mail. People tend to be a little less formal when communicating in this manner. While that may be acceptable when you are sending a note to a friend or a family member, you will want to be more formal when you are communicating with a potential client.

If you have the name of a specific contact person, make sure that it is spelled correctly in the e-mail. (Copy and paste it into the body of the e-mail if you are concerned about being able to do so.)

In a situation where despite your best efforts you have been unable to find a specific name, then use a general greeting, like “Dear Sir or Madam.” You could even keep it really simple by using something like, “Good morning” or “Good afternoon.”

What should you avoid using as a salutation when you are sending an e-mail to a client?

How you doin’?

You get the idea. While the person you are making contact with may turn out to be a friend at some point, that is not the case yet. It’s better to err on the side of being a little too formal when sending an e-mail to a prospective client.

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13 responses
  1. Rob Avatar

    How’s that for a salutation? Not so great. Too formal, though, will make you sound like a non-native English speaker/writer. “Dear Sir/Madam” is like saying, “English is my second language but I’m trying to make you believe it’s not.”

  2. Jodee Avatar

    Hey Rob! I understand your point but some people you may be corresponding with may be older or very traditional. “Dear Sirs” is a correct way to address a letter to a company but it comes across as sexist. Lately, I tend to go with Good morning or Good afternoon when sending an e-mail and I don’t know exactly who will be reading it.

  3. Hazel Avatar

    I generally start emails with “Greetings:” if I don’t know a person’s name. It’s less time-sensitive.

  4. James Tennant Avatar

    I always go in with Hello. Simple. Good morning or Good afternoon also works but Hello is about as basic and as neutral as it gets.

  5. Nan Avatar

    Hello Jodee, Agree with you. Email to potential business contacts looks best when written in business style. What about the closing? Sincerely seems “too” traditonal to me. What’s an appropriate way to end email gig inquiry?

  6. Carol Avatar

    I’m kind of old-school…because I’m kind of old(er)…but if I don’t know the person yet, I say, “Dear Mr. Smith.” I wait for them to tell me “call me Joe.” Or after they sign their reply email simply “Joe.”
    If I can’t get a name, I write something like, “Dear Major Magazine editor”.
    You’ll never be penalized for showing that respect, but you can turn people off by being too informal.

  7. Debra Stang Avatar

    I’m never sure how to handle the dreaded salutation when I don’t have a name to use as a contact. I’ll usually just start the email with, “Hello,” and go from there.

  8. Jessica Mason Avatar
    Jessica Mason

    Thanks for this. This is one of those tiny issues I always struggle with. When you do have the name, should you always use Mr. or Ms. Lastname? What about Dear Firstname Lastname?

  9. Chris Van Avatar

    I generally go with “Hello” as well, but I also been told this is too informal. I like the idea of “good morning” or “good afternoon,”
    certainly something to try.

    When in doubt I still think Dear Sir or Madam works best.

    1. James Tennant Avatar

      Ending an email is always a tough one as well. I like “best regards” followed by my name and the link to my professional website. Again, can’t be penalised either way because its neutral and polite.

      1. Nan Avatar

        Thanks James Tennant. You validated what I believe is true. It is effective to close an email with courtesy and neutrality.

  10. Jerrick Avatar

    formal or informal salutation is depend on the situation. Informal salutation mostly use in friendship or someone you know well. But when come to business purpose which may need to have record, than formal salutation is a need. Because if you use those kind of salutation to call someone, they may not honest to said that the email they do not receive and that email is not for him.

  11. Julia Alan Avatar

    Generally I start with dear Sir/ madam.I think this is one of the honest way.

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