How should I start and end a business email?

The old way

When I was in elementary school, I remember learning how to write a letter. A business letter was supposed to go like this:

Dear Mr./Mrs./Ms. (Last name):

(Write the message here.) 



(Your full name)

When I graduated college and started looking for a job, I wrote letters and emails this way at first. But then I realized that other people weren't writing so formally. I started to realize that my formal emails seemed a little silly to my coworkers and people I was doing business with.

The new way.

This is the format I now use for 95% of my work-related email:

Hi (First name),

(My message)



In the modern American business world, it's better to be informal. Even if you've never met someone - even if they're someone really important - you can:

  • write to them by their first name
  • use a comma after the greeting (whereas the old style was to use a colon ":" for business letters)
  • close with a simple word like "Thanks" instead of more old-fashioned phrases like "Best Regards"
  • sign only your first name at the end

Writing a little bit casually makes the communication seem more friendly. 

These days, email that is addressed in an old-fashioned, formal style actually seems suspicious. For example, sometimes I get scam emails that start out this way:

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am contacting you for a legitimate business transaction...

Even if the email isn't a scam, a very formal greeting makes me think that the writer doesn't really know who I am and is only writing to get something from me.

Of course, some countries and some industries might be different. For example, if you're writing to a judge, you should probably use a more formal style. And if you notice that the people you do business with write formally, you should do so as well.

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