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 recipient’s 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- The form Mrs is outdated.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 …
- confirm …
- 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 … I’m 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.
|Your sincerely, Sincerely yours, Respectfully,||Use when you’ve started with Dear Sir/Madam or To Whom It May Concern.|
|Sincerely,||Use when you’ve started with Dear + name.|
Less formal but still professional
|Kind regards, Warm regards, Regards,||not too formal but businesslike|
|Best wishes,||even less formal|
|Best, Hugs, Cheers,||Use with friends and colleagues you feel close to.|
Having given whatever information is required:
- state explicitly that you are enclosing documents (if you are),
- tell the recipient how many separate documents you are sending, and
- explain what they are and how they are relevant to the subject of your letter:
I am enclosing my invoice, which details…
or, more formally,
Please find enclosed a copy of your letter…
For more on enclosed documents, see: optional elements for business letters.
In your closing remarks, it is appropriate to:
- thank the recipient in advance for help,
- offer to be of further service if it is necessary, or
- summarize the important points of your letter:
Thank you in advance for your help with…
If I can provide additional information, please don’t hesitate…
I hope this information will help you…
If you expect the recipient to initiate the next contact, say so:
I look forward to hearing from you soon…
I look forward to our meeting next week…
I look forward to seeing you next Friday.
Initiating future contact
At this point, if you expect the recipient to respond to you in a particular way (for example, if you are asking the person to send you a document), specify in your letter how you expect him or her to respond:
- If you want the person to telephone you and are using company letterhead, the company telephone number will probably be on the stationery, but also provide your extension number or direct office number if you have one.
- If you want a document sent to you by fax or email, you should also provide that number or confirm that email address. This contact information, when necessary, should be part of the heading.
- If you definitely need an answer from the recipient, you might enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope for his or her convenience and mention this fact. This shows both your consideration and your desire for a response.
Example business letters
Just as there is a standard form for business letters, which sets out the information that should be included in virtually every business letter, so there are also formulas that govern the content of specific business letters. Some types of business letter are more difficult to write than others, but as you gain experience in writing letters you’ll find that knowing what to say and how to phrase it is largely a matter of common sense.
Here is an example business request letter:
- Business request letter (pdf)
And here are additional templates to guide your business letter writing:
Read more about Optional elements for business letters.
Back to Business writing.
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