Professional email greetings — they’re not as important as you think

2 Dec 2022

Professional email greetings aren’t as important as you think.

Many articles about emails typically include advice on the type of greeting to use in an email. There are pages and pages written about the use of ‘Hey’ instead of ‘Hello’, whether ‘Dear so-and-so’ is too formal. Even more is written about whether you should use first names when you haven’t met the person.

But I think all that is rubbish. It is so utterly pointless that I’m not going to give you any advice about the greetings you should or shouldn’t use.

Why are professional email greetings not important?

Because I don’t believe there are any universal rules for the right or wrong greeting to use in the variety of situations you’ll experience.

Okay, yes, there are some rules about not being rude, swearing, or generally being obnoxious. But I’m assuming you are a decent human being and you wouldn’t start a work email with a swear word. So given that you’re not going to be rude, does it really matter what words you use at the start?

The appropriateness of professional email greetings changes depending on your culture, the company culture where you work, how well you know the person you’re emailing, the formality of the message, what the people around you use, and much, much more.

Not only that, but specific greetings go in and out of fashion over the years. You need to work out what greeting is best based on the situation you are in and be flexible in changing that to the next right approach as things change over time.

If you’re really unsure what to use, look at the email greetings people send you or ask a friend or manager. Are your colleagues formal or not? Are customer emails started in the same way as internal emails? A quick look at other emails in your company will give you much better guidance than I can. (or any of the other internet expert for that matter!)

And finally, the greeting you use is far less important than the quality of the rest of the email. If you write clear, concise messages, people will care a lot less about whether you said ‘Hi’ or ‘Hello’.

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