Inboxes are swamped with incoming and outgoing emails throughout the day. According to Campaign Monitor, an email marketing platform, the average person sends and receives 121 business and consumer emails per day. However, not all of those messages are read, or are read from beginning to end.
To capture your recipient’s attention, you’ll need to craft a purposeful salutation and opening sentence. Here’s more on how to start an email professionally and effectively.
Why engaging email introductions are important
A strong email introduction encourages your reader to continue scanning the body of your message. The best emails have an engaging greeting and opening sentence that secures the recipient’s interest and buy-in. Ideally, a captivating introduction ultimately leads readers to take action.
A thoughtful email opening sentence is useful when asking recipients to:
- Click on a link
- Respond to a question
- Participate in a survey
- Provide additional clarity
- Review a document or other information
- Provide business-related support
A compelling opener sets the tone for the message. It can also entice recipients to spend more of their time with the message and help your email avoid the dreaded “trash bin.”
6 strong ways to start an email
Below is a list of email greetings and opening sentences that keep recipients, and their time, top of mind.
1 Dear [Name]
This email greeting is an appropriate salutation for formal email correspondence. It’s typically used in cover letters, official business letters, and other communication when you want to convey respect for the recipient.
Although honorifics like “Mr.” and “Mrs.” were once accepted, they risk misgendering or erroneously assuming the reader’s marital status. Instead, use “Dear Sam” or “Dear Sam Barney.”
2 Hi or Hello
As far as email greetings go, an informal “Hi” followed by a comma is perfectly acceptable in most work-related messages. If a slightly more formal tone is preferred, consider the salutation “Hello.”
Although this is considered an informal greeting, it also conveys a straightforward and friendly tone.
3 Hi everyone, Hi team, or Hi [department name] team
When writing an email message to two or more people, you have a few options. “Hi everyone,” “Hi team,” or “Hi [department name] team” are informal yet professional ways to greet a group of people.
They also avoid gender-specific addresses to a group, like “Hi guys,” “Hi ladies,” or “Gentlemen,” which might not accurately describe the recipients.
Engaging email opening sentences
4 I hope your week is going well or I hope you had a nice weekend
These are effective email opening sentences because they acknowledge your reader first and help build rapport with a colleague you already know or with whom you want to develop a friendly working relationship.
5 I’m reaching out about . . .
Beginning an email with “I’m reaching out about . . . ” is polite and direct and clarifies the purpose of the email. With hundreds of email correspondences transmitted in a single business day, this approach shows you’re being conscientious about the recipient’s time by getting straight to the point.
Stating your intent also avoids miscommunication or confusion about what you need from the reader.
6 Thanks for . . .
Expressing gratitude is another way to put the reader first. If the email you’re writing is in response to an email or action by the recipient, acknowledging that at the start builds on workplace camaraderie.
6 ways not to begin an email
The salutations and opening sentences below carry a stiff tone and, in some cases, suggest a careless approach. If your goal is to come across as genuine and thoughtful, then it’s best to avoid these phrases.
Salutations to avoid
1 To whom it may concern
Although “To whom it may concern” seems like a professional salutation, it’s impersonal and overused. It suggests that you didn’t care to confirm who your recipient is or whether your message pertains to them.
This also applies to the email greeting, “Dear Sir or Madam.” In this case, the gender-binary greeting is dated and could be considered noninclusive.
2 Hi [Misspelled Name]
When using the recipient’s name in an email salutation, confirm that you’ve used the correct spelling. Typos happen, but misspelling a person’s name sends a red flag that you didn’t write your message with care or attention to detail.
3 Dear [ENTER NAME HERE]
Misspelling a recipient’s name in an email greeting should be avoided, as should another salutation faux pas: entirely forgetting to enter their name into a prewritten template.
Using an email template without any personalization in the hope of captivating your reader will likely be ineffective. If you must use a templated message for efficiency, always double-check that you’ve changed any placeholders in the salutation with the recipient’s correctly spelled name.
Opening sentences to avoid
4 Can you do me a favor?
When you don’t know the recipient and are emailing them for the first time, an opening sentence like “Can you do me a favor?” can feel abrupt and has a self-serving tone.
Instead, consider an email opening sentence that concisely explains the problem you’re hoping to solve with their assistance, like “I’m reaching out about . . . ”
5 I know you’re busy, but . . .
This email introduction, at best, assumes the reader’s time is precious. At worst, it suggests that you’re aware of that fact, but you deserve their attention nonetheless.
Regardless of your relationship with the reader, avoid this introductory sentence and instead briefly explain why you’re messaging them.
6 Let me introduce myself
This email opener is typically used when emailing a recipient for the first time. Beginning an email with “Let me introduce myself” is like narrating your own introduction. Would you say this out loud to someone? It sounds declarative, but it ultimately wastes time. Instead, cut to the chase.
Additional tips for an engaging email introduction
- Know your audience. The email salutation and opening sentence for your message should reflect the relationship you have with the audience. Consider whether you’re writing for a client, C-suite leadership, a professional acquaintance, or a close colleague.
- Make your purpose clear. When the purpose of your email is unclear, it can leave the reader confused or frustrated. To avoid missing this critical factor, try incorporating the purpose of your email into the opening sentence.
- Use an online tool. Hitting the right tone for your audience and the action you ultimately want them to do can be challenging. Grammarly’s tone detector can help you spot areas that aren’t accomplishing your intended tone.