By Marina Pantcheva
The salutation is an important part of a letter. The choice of the right salutation depends on whether you know the person you are writing to and how formal your relationship is.
Very formal (for official business letters)To Whom It May Concern:Use only when you do not know to whom you must address the letter, for example, when writing to an institution.Dear Sir/Madam,Use when writing to a position without having a named contact.Dear Mr Smith,Use when you have a named male contact.Dear Ms Smith,Use when you have a named female contact; do not use the old-fashioned Mrs.Dear Dr Smith,Use when writing to a named doctor.Dear Prof Smith,Use when writing to a named professor.Dear Xu Li,Type the whole name when you are unsure of the recipients gender.
Less formal but still professional (business letters)Dear colleagues,Use when writing to a group of people.Dear Mary,Use when writing to a named female.Dear John,Use when writing to a named male.
Informal (personal letters)
These salutations should be used with people you are close to, as they might offend others.Hello guys,Use when writing to a group of people you know very well.Hi,Use when writing to one or more people you know very well.
- There should be a comma after the salutation and a colon after To Whom It May Concern.
- No full stop is needed after Mr, Ms, and Dr.
- The form Mrs is outdated.
- Avoid the exclamation (!) in salutations.
Starting your letter
There two ways in which business letters usually start: they make reference to a previous contact, for example, phone conversation, meeting, previous mail correspondence; or they are the first contact with the recipient.
Making reference to previous contact
I am (we are writing) regarding
- your inquiry about
- our phone conversation
In reply to your request
Thank you for contacting us.
Contacting the recipient for the first time
I am (we are) writing to
- inform you that
- enquire about
- complain about
I am contacting you for the following reason.
I recently heard about and would like to
Making a request
We would appreciate it if you would
I would be grateful if you could
Could you please send me
Could you possibly tell us
It would be helpful if you could send us
Giving good news
We are pleased to announce that
I am delighted to inform you that
Giving bad news
We regret to inform you that
Im afraid it would not be possible to
Unfortunately we are unable to
After careful consideration we have decided
Ending your letter
Please find enclosed (for letters)
Please find attached (for emails)
Offering future assistance
If you require more information, please let us know.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you need any further assistance.
Referring to future contact
I am looking forward to hearing from you soon.
We are looking forward to meeting you on 21 January/in Tromsø.
We would appreciate your reply at your earliest convenience.
The closing salutation must match the opening salutation and the overall tone of the letter. Choose one of the following closing lines depending on the formality of the salutation.