How to start emails

Common Mistakes in Business English

If you don’t know the name of the person you are writing to, start business emails with either of the following:

Dear Sir,
Dear Madam,

Dear Madame, is wrong.

If you don’t know whether you’re writing to a man or a woman use:

Dear Sir or Madam,

It is not usual to start an email To whom it may concern. This should be reserved for letters of reference or similar communications when the recipient is an unknown third party.

It is always better to use somebody’s name if you know it. If it is the first time you are writing to someone, use either of the following:

For men:   Dear Mr Smith,
For women:   Dear Ms Smith,

Once you get to know someone, i.e. after exchanging one or two emails or if you meet them in person, it is usually OK to use their first name.


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