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How to Start an Email: The Best Salutations & Opening Lines

How to start an email

Starting an email with a proper salutation and a compelling opening line is crucial to making an excellent first impression. (And yes, I know “salutation” feels very formal, but “greeting” felt too informal… so I went with “salutation.”)

It sets the tone for the rest of your message and increases your chances of receiving positive responses from the recipients.

In contrast, if you start on the wrong note, your email could be heading straight to the trash folder.

In this article, I’ll show you how to start an email, including the eight best salutations and opening lines to use. I’ll also mention which ones to avoid.

Then, I’ll explain why the beginning of your email matters and offer five actionable tips to help you write better emails.

Finally, I’ll cover the best way to test your openings to figure out what works best for your specific audience.

Further Reading:

This Article Contains:

(Click on the links to jump to a specific section)

Let’s dive in.

How to Start an Email

Many people think the subject line is the only important part of an email (or, at least, the most important part) because it determines whether your email will be opened or not.

However, you’ll also need to start with the proper salutation and opening line — so after someone does open your email, they want to take action.

After all, if you want your professional email to be taken seriously, you can’t start it the same way you’d begin a personal email. You’ll need an engaging start that also strikes the right professional tone.

To help you start your emails the right way, I’ll go over a few pointers on writing suitable salutations and effective opening lines.

8 Salutations to Use

The greeting or salutation is an integral part of any email.

Whether it’s a business email, marketing email, or a cover letter, the greeting you choose will set the tone for the rest of the message.

Here are some salutations you could use for a professional email:

1. Dear [Name]

This greeting is appropriate for formal emails. For example, if you’re writing a cover letter, you can address the recipient using their last name, like “Dear Ms. Blair” or “Dear Mr. Brown.”

Always avoid honorifics like “Mrs.” that imply someone’s marital status. However, always use traditional honorifics that indicate professional status, such as “Dr.” or “Dear Professor.”

If you don’t know the recipient’s gender (or their pronouns), you can use the gender-neutral honorific “Mx”.

Alternatively, if your recipient is your age or younger and doesn’t outrank you professionally, you can open with “Hello Taylor.”

This is an acceptable generic greeting in countries where formality isn’t mandatory, like the U.S.

However, if your recipient is in a country where formality is common (such as India), you can use their full name. For example, “Dear Ajay Goel”.

2. Hi / Hi There

While you wouldn’t use these email salutations in a business letter, they are perfectly acceptable for professional emails.

The most popular version among these is a simple “Hi (Name)”.
This greeting is usually appropriate for a personal or business email unless it’s a very formal email.

Although the greeting “Hi there” is often used in marketing campaign emails (to newsletter subscribers, for example), people are more likely to read an email when you mention their first name instead of a generic greeting.

(If you’re a GMass user, you can use our easy personalization features to add that first name — GMass can even automatically detect a contact’s first name by analyzing their email address.)

3. Hi everyone

When addressing a group, it would be way too awkward to list everyone’s name in the greeting. Instead, you can use a greeting like “Hi everyone”  if you’re emailing a group of people, like your work team.

“Hi everyone” is preferable to “Hi guys” because the latter has a gender connotation.

On the flip side, if you’re emailing just two or three people, you could list their names, separated by commas. For example, “Hi Lee, Mary, and Ann”. These greetings are more appropriate than the abrupt “Hi all” greeting, which sounds like it’s part of some generic email template.

4. Greetings

This is a popular salutation you can use when sending an email to a large group of people or just one person.

Additionally, you can use “Greetings” when you’re sending a professional email to a business email account and don’t know the recipient’s name.

For example, “Greetings” is an appropriate opener when you’re sending business emails to an email address like [email protected](companyname).com.

Let’s look at a few more greetings that work well in professional email messages.

Additional Salutations

Here are a few other greetings you could use in your emails:

  • Hello [Name]: If you’ve emailed the recipient before, instead of using a greeting like “Hi,” you could make it a bit more personal and say “Hello [Name].”
  • Hi team: If you’re writing to three or more recipients in the same team, you could use this greeting.
  • Good morning, Good afternoon, or Good evening: When you know the recipient’s time zone and the time of day they’ll be reading your email, you could use one of these greetings. Additionally, these greetings work well if you’re making an announcement.
  • Dear Job Title (for example, Recruitment Manager): If you don’t know the recipient’s name but know their designation, you could use this greeting. 

Important: Use Fallbacks When Including Names on Mail Merges

When you’re sending mass emails using a mail merge, you might not know everyone’s first name. So if you use a salutation like “Hello [Name]”, you need to cover your bases if you don’t know the contact’s name.

When you’re setting up your personalized mass emails with GMass, make sure to set a fallback value. So rather than only using Hello {FirstName} in your email, try Hello {FirstName|there} to automatically swap in “there” whenever you don’t have a listing for a contact’s name.

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8 Opening Lines to Use

Once you’ve chosen the perfect way to greet your email recipient, you’ll need to add an intriguing opening line next. This will motivate the recipient to read the entire email.

No matter the type of professional email you’re writing, the best email opening lines meet one or more of these four requirements:

  • Offer value.
  • Start a conversation.
  • Ask a relevant question.
  • Boost the ego.

The key to choosing the right opening line is deciding which of these four you want to accomplish with your email. Once you do that, you can move on to picking the best opening line for your message.

Here are a few opening lines you could choose from:

1. Allow me to introduce myself

You wouldn’t walk into a business meeting and just start talking, especially if you’ve never met the other attendees before.

Then why do it in an email?

If you’ve never emailed or met the person you’re emailing, it’s polite to introduce yourself first before moving on to your message.

But remember, you should keep the introduction short — don’t use this as an opportunity to talk about yourself, your company, or your qualifications in great length. Just a quick introduction will do.

2. I hope you’re doing well

This opening line is one of the most commonly used ones, as it’s a safe bet.

Although this phrase probably won’t win you any points for originality, it’s an acceptable and cordial way to start a professional email. “I hope you’re doing well” is something you’d say to someone you don’t know very well but you have some connection to, like a work colleague.

3. I’m reaching out to you about

Chances are, the person you’re emailing receives tons of emails each day.

You can make it easier for them to decide your email’s importance by mentioning why you’re emailing them right at the start.

This opening line is effective because it gets straight to the point, which busy professionals will value. For example, you could use this opening line when applying for a job, emailing a prospective client, or requesting a phone call with a company representative.

4. I hope you’re having a great day (or week)

This opening line works well if you know the person you’re emailing (for example, a work colleague, family member, or friend). It conveys a sense of friendliness and may prompt the email recipient to start a conversation about their day (or week).

But keep in mind that this isn’t an opening line you’d use when emailing someone you’ve never met, say for a job interview or a prospective customer.

Why? It can come off as disingenuous to say this to someone you don’t know. It may also seem like an intrusion into the recipient’s personal life if they’ve never even met you.

Additional Opening Lines

Here are some more opening lines you could use:

  • I hope you enjoyed your weekend: If you’re emailing someone you already know on a Monday, this is an opening line you could use. It can help you build a better rapport with the person and establish a friendly relationship.
  • I’m eager to get your advice/thoughts on: This is a good opening line if you want to pique the interest of your email recipient. It also conveys the message that you value their input.
  • Thanks for getting in touch: Whether you’re sending an email to a prospective employer or potential customer, this is a pleasant way to start a reply email.
  • Thanks for the quick response: This is a suitable opening for a reply email. Whatever the reason for the email, a little appreciation goes a long way toward showing how much their assistance means to you.

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Now that you know the best ways to start an email, I’ll cover the salutations and opening lines you should avoid.

How You Should Not Start an Email

Have you ever received emails that began so awkwardly that you didn’t bother to go through the whole thing?

If you received an email starting with the following greetings or opening lines, you probably wouldn’t give it your attention, and neither will anyone you’re emailing.

A. 4 Salutations to Avoid

An inappropriate or outdated greeting will set the wrong tone for your email right from the start. Here are some salutations you should stay away from:

1. To whom it may concern

This greeting is seen as too stiff and vague to be used in business emails. It gives the impression that you were too lazy to find out to whom the email should have been addressed.

As you would when writing a formal letter, try to find out the person’s name before you send your email. Alternatively, opt for a warmer opening sentence.

For example, let’s say you’re emailing company XYZ regarding their job application, and you can’t find the name of an HR team member. Instead of using “To whom it may concern”, you can use something like “To Team X” or “Dear Hiring Manager at Company XYZ”.

2. A misspelled name

A misspelled name is up there with the worst greeting you could write.

Always double-check your emails to see if you have the correct spelling of your recipient’s name. If the person’s name seems complicated, just copy and paste it from a good source.

However, if you’re not confident about the correct spelling of the name, remove it and stick with a greeting like “Hello”. This is somewhat rare but might happen at events where an attendee sent you a company or team email instead of handing you their business card.

Although using “Hello” might be considered an impersonal opening, it’s always better than a serious breach of email etiquette like misspelling a person’s name.

3. Dear sir (or madam)

Like “To whom it may concern”, “Dear sir or madam” is a stiff and often ceremonial salutation which in the past was reserved for formal letter writing. However, these days it can come across as slightly outdated for modern business writing.

Moreover, it shows you didn’t bother to check the recipient’s name.

This email greeting is still used in business letter writing in countries where men and women are called “sir” and “madam”. However, these types of formal salutations don’t suit an email.

Using a less formal way of greeting the recipient (like “Hello”) would be a better option.

4. An informal greeting

While several informal salutation options may be acceptable in certain formal greeting scenarios, a straight-out casual greeting is not encouraged in business emails.

This includes any informal greeting like:

  • Hey.
  • Hey buddy!
  • Hi guys.

Remember, correspondence through a professional email address is not the same as a message on social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter, where an informal salutation is expected.

Using a nickname, exclamation point, or any other informal salutation can make you seem unprofessional and should be reserved for informal emails and social media.

However, some offices encourage such a casual culture.

You may casually communicate with your work colleagues internally. But be mindful of any external business correspondence you send to clients, prospects, or anyone with a professional email address. They may not have the same work culture as you do.

As a result, it’s safer to stick with a simple and slightly formal greeting when you start your emails.

Bonus: A broken mail merge

If you try to send an email using a mail merge on the salutation, but the merge fails, you’ll tank the email almost every time.

It’s hard to imagine anyone would be receptive to an email that starts Hello {LeadName — where you forgot to put the closing bracket so the mail merge didn’t work. Or even Hello , — where the space before the comma clearly indicates there was supposed to be a mail merge, it just wasn’t filled in.

At GMass, we’ve taken several steps to help you avoid mail merge disasters.

First, our mail merge tags pop up in the Gmail compose window as you type — so you don’t have to try to remember them or manually type them yourself.

Second, GMass has an easy-to-use fallback system for mail merges, so you don’t have to leave blank spaces before commas.

And third, with GMass you can save your emails as drafts before you send — which gives you a chance to look them over to make sure all merges worked properly.

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Now that we know which greetings to avoid, let’s also look at some opening lines to stay away from.

B. 4 Opening Lines to Avoid

It can be challenging to decide on the perfect opening lines that segue smoothly into your email messages. To make it a little easier, here are the opening lines you should steer clear of:

1. It’s me again!

While this opening line may be acceptable for informal emails, it’s too informal for a professional email.

Sure, it may seem like you’re reminding the person about a previous conversation or email you’ve sent them in a light-hearted manner, but you may come across as a nuisance.

The recipient may feel like you’re bugging them and ignore your email altogether. Additionally, it’s too unprofessional for any form of business communication.

2. I am sorry to bother you by popping up in your inbox

You may think you’re polite with this email. But it sounds insincere and immediately undermines your credibility. Because if you were actually focused on not bothering them, you wouldn’t have sent the email at all.

Instead of this opening line, it’s best to get straight to the point, mentioning why you’re emailing them — the recipient will appreciate your honesty.

3. I know you’re busy but

When you’re sending a professional email, this is an opening line you should avoid because it’s too presumptuous.

Whether you’re emailing a person within your organization or a perfect stranger, how do you know that they’re busy? 

This opening line is bad news for your engagement because it comes across as too familiar for business correspondence. As a result, it’s best to avoid it.

Instead, if you know the person you’re emailing is busy, choose an opening line that explains your reason for emailing them.

4. I want to ask a quick favor

Keep in mind that the fundamental purpose of every email is to establish and maintain a connection. To do that, you need mutual respect, which you probably won’t gain if your first time communicating with the recipient involves asking for a favor.

To increase the chances of your email being read, you need to make them feel like you’ll be doing them a favor and not the other way around.

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Next, I’ll briefly explain why the start of a professional email is so important.

Why Does the Beginning of Your Email Matter?

Emails are generally considered a more formal way of communicating.

That’s why you must create an excellent first impression when you contact people through email, especially when reaching out to a potential client or a prospective partner.

A good email with a strong opening sentence helps create a professional impression that shows your message is worth the recipient’s valuable time. This way, there’s a far better chance your recipients will read the entire email and respond.

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But how exactly do you write the perfect email?
I’ll go over some practical tips you can use to write the perfect email.

5 Actionable Tips for Writing the Perfect Email

Knowing how to start professional emails is critical, but that’s not everything you need to know to write better emails.

Let’s take a look at five tips that will help you write the perfect email:

1. Choose Your Style

Before you write an email, consider who your target audience is. This will help you choose the proper salutation and determine whether you should follow a casual or professional tone.

While many businesses used to communicate through a formal style of writing, contemporary companies and startups prefer a more casual and friendly business writing approach. This is because a formal style of writing emails can seem stiff and unfriendly.

But how do you know when to switch from formal emails to a less formal style?
Look out for these indicators that tell you when to switch styles:

  • When follow up emails and business correspondence you’ve received from the other party are less formal.
  • When a recipient directly tells you to use their first name instead of Mr. or Ms.
  • When they address you by your first name or sign their emails using only their first name.

You should avoid using excessively formal salutations when you know the recipient well, as it would be awkward to address a close colleague or friend using honorifics.

However, if you’re contacting them for work, you’ll have to use a somewhat professional tone.

2. Be Mindful of Your First Sentence

Many people make the mistake of writing a bland or unimpressive first sentence.

Just like the greeting, the first sentence of your email message determines whether your recipient will read your email or ignore it.

For this reason, you shouldn’t be afraid to dive straight into the point with your opening line.

If you share a mutual contact with the recipient, start your email by referring to that person or organization. This could help your email develop a connection with your recipient sooner. But then get directly to the point of your message.

3. State the Purpose in the Subject Line and Body of the Email

It’s always a good idea to state the purpose of your email when you start writing it, as it allows the recipient to get a clear idea of what to expect.

Remember to keep your sentences short since people like emails to be as clear and brief as possible. To maintain a professional image, you should also check for spelling or grammatical errors before sending your email.

4. Remember to Thank Your Recipient

Usually, when you’re writing a reply to an inquiry, you can start with something like, “Thanks for getting in touch.”

However, most people don’t realize the importance of thanking a recipient in outgoing emails too. Not only is thanking your recipient a polite gesture, but it also increases your chances of getting a reply.

Once you’re done writing the body of the email, be sure to add a line at the bottom thanking your recipient.

5. Add a Closing Remark

Your closing remark can just be a simple thank you or something additional like, “Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any concerns.”

This is usually followed by an appropriate sign-off, such as “Best regards”, “Sincerely”, etc.

While it’s tempting to add this sign-off to your automated email signature, it’s best not to do so. Embedding your parting phrase in the signature panel is impersonal and tells your recipient you don’t send genuine or sincere regards.

However, avoid using a closing with a simple term like “Cheers” at the end unless you are good friends with the recipient.

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So now that you’ve learned some techniques for opening your emails, it’s time to figure out what works best — and gets the highest engagement from your targets.

How to Test Your Salutations and Opening Lines to Figure Out What Works

You’re reading this article on the GMass blog and, if you aren’t familiar with GMass, it’s a powerful email outreach and marketing tool that works inside of your Gmail or Google Workspace account.

GMass is a fantastic way to send personalized mass emails (our 200,000+ users and 6,000+ positive reviews give us the confidence to say that) — whether those are cold outreach emails, marketing newsletters, automations, or anything else.

But we’re not going to dig into all the features of GMass in this article (you can learn more about them through the GMass tour, or just by downloading the GMass Chrome extension to try GMass for free).

Here, we’re going to focus on a great feature for you — that is, someone who’s doing thorough research on email openings.

GMass’s A/B testing feature is one of the easiest to use in the entire email marketing industry — and the perfect way for you to test different salutations and opening lines to figure out which brings in the best results.

Testing step 1: Create your email featuring two (or more) variations

Using spintax for an A/B test

The first step in setting up an A/B test is figuring out what, exactly, you want to test. Ideally, you’d only test one variable at once (i.e., you’d only test salutations or you’d only test opening lines, not both) — that helps you better attribute performance differences to one and only one change.

GMass’s A/B testing system is set up to make it dead simple to compare two or more variations. With spintax commands, you write one email (including all the variations). Then GMass sends out different variations of your email to equal samples of your list.

In the example above, I am testing a softer opening (“I hope you’re having a great week!”) versus a more direct one (“I’m reaching out to you about…”) You can see in the screenshot how I’ve included both opening lines in the same email, inside of the GMass spintax commands.

Testing step 2: Make a few key decisions about your test

Choosing A/B test settings

Once your email is ready, head to the GMass settings box (click the little arrow next to the GMass button in the Gmail compose window).

Go to the Advanced section of the settings, and check the box next to “A/B Test: Send different emails to see what works best.”

From here, you’ll choose the options for your A/B test.

  • Percentage of emails to send for the test. You can send the variations of your email to any percentage of your list. And after those emails go out, GMass can assess which variation “wins” and send to the remaining people on your list. (You can also choose to A/B test across your entire list by setting the percentage to 100%. You’ll have a much larger sample size, and can use your findings in the future.)
  • When to pick a winner. You want to give people time to receive, open, and click or reply to your emails. So give a little cushion for GMass to collect data about your email success rates.
  • How to send the winner. If you pick “Automatic,” after the test emails have gone out to your designated percentage, GMass will automatically choose the winning variation and send that variation to the reminder of your list. If you pick “Manual,” you’ll get an email from GMass after the test with the results so you can pick a winner.
  • The deciding metric. If you go with “Automatic” sending, GMass needs to know what metric you’re using to judge success. Is it opens? Clicks? Replies? GMass will use your selection here to pick its winner.

Testing step 3: Evaluating, learning, and adapting

A/B notifier - time to choose a winner

GMass makes A/B testing very easy — since testing is built right into your natural email sending flow. We hope this encourages you to continue testing and learning.

Let’s say you found one opening line led to a significantly higher percentage of replies than another opening line. Now try testing a few salutations with the winning opening line. After that, keep refining — try new opening lines but use GMass’s mail merge features to personalize it.

Keep on testing and learning from your results. The better your opening lines, the more success you will have. And we want to provide the data to steer you toward that success.

Get started with GMass today for fast A/B testing inside your workflow — you can try for free and you’ll be up and running in mere minutes.

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Final Thoughts

How you start an email plays a significant role in whether recipients will respond to your email or simply ignore it.

Use the tips I mentioned here to ace your email opening and craft the perfect email. And once you pair it with a powerful email tool like GMass, you can easily streamline your outreach efforts.

3 Comments
  1. Can I say “Thank you for contacting (Company’s Name) and also ending it with “Thank you for choosing….(Company’s Name)? while replying an official email?.

  2. Then again, there are a couple of marketers whose lists I m on who send emails that start off with Hey Gang, or Hey Guys, but it s just me here, and not 5 or 6 people standing around my workspace reading the email with me. : ) Just the tips I needed at the moment when we are testing our emails we sent to our 20,000+ list for one of our London client s. The use of number is something we never did before, but will be testing in our next email we wend to our list next week.

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