Writing an Email: Salutations and Valedictions
  • 3-minute read
  • 4th January 2017

Writing an Email: Salutations and Valedictions

When writing an email for work or college, there are rules you should observe regarding the opening and closing messages. These are known as “salutations” and “valedictions.” The correct phrases to use for these depend on who you’re emailing.

What Are Salutations?

A “salutation” is the greeting at the beginning of an email or letter. You’ll always need one of these unless you’re emailing someone you know well, as an email has to be addressed to someone!

Dear or Hi?

The correct salutation to use in an email depends on who you’re contacting and why you’re getting in touch. The traditional choice here is “Dear [Person’s name]”, such as in:

Dear Donald,

I’m writing today to let you know that…

However, this can seem quite formal. This is fine if you want your email to seem official (you may even want to use their title and surname). But otherwise a simple “Hi” or “Hello” is often good enough (and is becoming more common than “Dear” anyway):

Hi Don!

I’m writing today to let you know that…

As such, knowing which salutation to use is basically a judgment call based on how well you know the person you’re emailing.

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But what do you do if you don’t even know their name? In these cases, you can either use their job title (e.g., “Dear Hiring Manager…”) or a generic greeting, like “To Whom it May Concern” or “Dear Sir/Madam…”

Usually, though, it’s better to find the name of the recipient and use that.

This makes emailing the Man With No Name difficult.
This makes emailing the Man With No Name difficult.

What Are Valedictions?

Since we’ve already explained that salutations are greetings, you’ve probably guessed that a “valediction” is the sign-off message at the end of an email or letter. Another term for a “valediction” is a “complimentary close,” but they describe exactly the same thing.

How to Sign-Off an Email

This also depends on how formal you’re being. If you know the recipient well, you might even skip the valediction altogether and just give your name instead.

However, it’s generally a good idea to use some kind of sign-off. For everyday use, the valedictions “Kind regards” and “Best wishes” work well, whether in formal or informal settings.

If you’re going for a more official tone, you might want to stick to traditional valedictions like “Yours faithfully,” “Sincerely yours,” or “Yours truly.” Each of these has a specific use:

  • Yours faithfully = Writing to someone you don’t know (can seem a bit old-fashioned)
  • Yours truly = Writing to someone you don’t know well (a little more up-to-date)
  • Sincerely yours = Writing to someone you know (friendly but formal)

As with salutations, this is ultimately a matter of judgment, so just go for what feels right!

Comments (1)
Jennifer
5th June 2020 at 02:48
So hard to know how formal to be in an email. Thank you for the tips. I always feel off saying 'sincerely' in an email. Was looking for a better option.

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