Crafting a powerful professional email sets the tone for the rest of your business communication. However, despite people engaging with around 347.3 billion emails per day worldwide, most still grapple with how to start an email correctly.
We’ve all been there… Taking a little bit too long overthinking is the perfect way to balance out an informal greeting for formal communication, aiming to craft a flawless introduction. That, or second-guessing that opening sentence up till the moment you hit send, and even then, you still double-check it once more, hoping not to find a mistake that sneaked past you, Gmail, and Grammarly somehow.
If this sounds familiar, this article is for you.
You’ll learn 7 key approaches to writing professional emails in different work and life scenarios to elevate not just your business correspondence but the way you think about email in general. Get ready to revolutionize your email writing game and leave a lasting impression with every message you send.
Why engaging opening lines are important
It’s easy to dismiss email introductions as an afterthought outshined by your email subject lines and core content, but they actually hold remarkable power. Enough to shape the trajectory of your professional email correspondence. And for a good reason, too!
A compelling opening line immediately captures a reader’s attention
Modern email inboxes are flooded, and attention spans are too short. So, if you’re hoping for quick responses, your email needs to stand out. An engaging opening line will grab the recipient’s attention amidst the sea of unread email messages.
It’ll set the stage for the rest of your email content, enticing the reader to keep reading your message.
First impressions count
The opening lines of your email are crucial, much like a firm handshake or warm smile in a face-to-face conversation. They create a lasting impact. A great introduction will show your professionalism, personality, and attention to detail, instantly positioning you as a great communicator.
The result? Your readers will want to hear more from you and your brand!
Fosters strong connections
We don’t simply send emails to convey information. It is also an opportunity to build and nurture professional relationships. An appropriate greeting helps you establish a connection with the recipient right from the beginning. You also demonstrate that you value the reader’s time and have made an effort to make your message relevant and appealing.
Investing time and thought into crafting engaging email greetings can elevate your official communication and help achieve your professional goals faster. Setting the wrong tone, in turn, can ruin your image and discourage the recipient from ever interacting with your email messages again.
7 creative ways to start an email
Now that you understand the significance of engaging email introductions let’s explore seven remarkable approaches to captivate your recipients right from the start. Each approach offers a unique angle, allowing you to tailor your opening to the specific context and desired outcome.
Here’s a quick summary to get started:
|Email style||Popular greetings & opening lines||Phrases to avoid|
|Formal email||✅ Dear Mr/Ms/Dr/Mrs Jones|
✅ Dear Hiring Manager
|❌ Dear Sir/Madame |
❌To whom it may concern
|Informal email||✅ Hi team|
✅ Hi guys
✅ Hi Jessica
|❌ What’s up Alex?|
❌ Sup, buddy?
|Personal email||✅ I’ve noticed you are interested in… |
✅ Hope you’ve enjoyed the conference as much as I have!
|❌ Let me introduce myself!|
|Direct email||✅ I see great potential in working together with [Their Company Name] |
✅ Wanted to make sure you don’t miss this special offer!
✅ I am looking for a professional [Job Title] to help me with…
|❌ I know you’re busy, but…|
❌ Can you do me a favor?
❌ Hope this email finds you well
|Question email||✅ How’s it going, Cara? |
✅ Have you already heard about the latest GPT-4 update?
✅ How many tigers do you think are still left in the wild?
|❌ No one can answer this for me.|
|Reference email||✅ Sara K told me you’re the expert when it comes to… |
✅ I’ve been following your work at [Company Name] for years, and I’m impressed!
✅ Shoppers like you also like these products
|❌ You don’t know me, but…|
|Gratitude email||✅ Thank you for your help with… |
✅ I really appreciated your assistance with…
And now, without further ado – let’s unravel this table!
1. The formal approach
A formal approach is ideal for professional email communication, such as when sending cold emails to potential clients or discussing official business with higher-level colleagues.
🔥 Maintaining a respectful professional tone of voice and using appropriate formal greetings and salutations is essential for this approach.
“Dear Dr. Jones”
The perfect general salutation will be “Dear Mr./Mrs./Ms./Dr. [Last Name]”. While you can go with just their name (e.g. “Dear John” – pun intended), it’s safer to add your recipient’s appropriate titles and honorifics, such as “Mr.,” “Ms.,” “Dr.,” or “Prof.” and rely on the last name. to underline the formality of the situation.
This is especially crucial for potential clients. Acknowledging their professional status demonstrates respect and shows that you put effort into learning more about them. Plus, it earns you additional points if their honorary titles are appealing to their ego (people don’t just spend 10 years of their lives hassling for their Ph.D., not to rub it in everyone’s face).
“Dear Hiring Manager”
🔥 If you would like to omit mentioning the recipient’s gender, simply use their full name without a title. As a last resort, you can use their job title: “Dear [Hiring Manager/Marketing Director]”.
This is a safe approach when sending a cover letter during your job application or appealing for a case in a governmental institution, but it will rarely help you score any additional points with prospective clients.
P.S. If you are a hiring manager, this approach won’t sit well with most applicants. Nobody wants to be greeted with a faceless “Dear Candidate” opening line. Consider automating your email contacts with a tool that will pull your candidates’ data (you know, like GetResponse!) and personalize the message from there. And take a critical look at your ATS – we’re not in the 1990s anymore.
DON’T keep it impersonal
Avoid overly ambiguous salutations like the old-fashioned “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To whomever it may concern”. Even in formal emails, such opening lines come off as lazy and are generally recognized as a poor email etiquette practice (yes, we did a whole study on that in a separate blog post!)
Here’s a great formal email template:
The next steps of your formal email
After the greeting, briefly introduce yourself and state your affiliation or position. This is key to formal email correspondence because it establishes your credibility and helps the recipient understand your background.
🔥 Stick to professional language when sending formal emails. Avoid overly informal expressions, jargon, and colloquialisms.
Just like a strong subject line, your opening should briefly explain the purpose of your email – keep it straight to the point. Whether you are requesting information, arranging a meeting, or addressing a particular issue, make sure your intention is easy to understand.
And don’t hide behind the formal style – an email is, first and foremost, a communication tool, which means that your primary goal should be to deliver a message and have it deciphered correctly. So instead of the fluff like “I was wondering if it would be possible to inquire an information on a specific topic you happen to be a specialist in,” go with “I am writing about [the topic they happen to be an expert in]”.
🔥 Finally, when sending formal emails, always remember there are different levels of formality based on your relationship with the recipient. Make sure your email adapts to the professional context well.
2. The informal approach
The informal approach is ideal for situations where you have an established rapport or a casual relationship with the recipient. Your established business partner or colleagues you are acquainted with are great examples of people you can greet with informal email openings.
🔥 While writing emails like this, you may keep your tone of voice more relaxed and casual. However, it’s still important to maintain a level of respect and courtesy in your communication.
Skip the formal greeting and start with a warm and personalized “Good morning, [First Name]” or “Hi team” if your email message is meant for multiple recipients. Such informal email greetings maintain a perfect balance of casual professionalism.
Since you already have a relationship with the recipient, there’s no need to introduce you per se. Instead, you need to ensure your opening sentence clearly explains the purpose of your email.
“How’s it going?” NOT “What’s up?”
🔥 A more conversational tone is perfectly acceptable for an informal yet professional email. You can also easily use shorter sentences and contractions. For example, instead of saying “I am,” just say “I’m”.
Yet, keep in mind that even if you’re writing to a close colleague of yours, it’s still important to address the recipient appropriately and double-check your informal emails for any slips like a misspelled name or a typo in their email. After all, it’s still a business setting, and while you may share an internal joke, it very much may contradict the company culture and get you in trouble later on.
Finally, when writing informal emails, avoid overly technical language and communicate as if you’re having an in-person conversation with the recipient. And remember: email is still a professional medium.
🔥 If you want to discuss something more personal (or if you expect a super quick response) – try reaching out via an organizational messenger (Slack, Teams, Google, etc.) instead.
3. The personal approach
The personal approach is not very different from the informal one, yet it has its own specifics. Personal email greetings work especially well when you have an existing relationship with the recipient or when you need to send follow-up emails to establish a more authentic connection.
These are often outgoing emails sent to the individuals who stopped by your company’s booth at a conference or an integral part of your lead nurturing workflow.
🔥 Having a reliable email marketing automation tool can help you personalize your communications even further and create a feeling of face-to-face communication even if you’re sending mass emails.
Take it beyond “Hi Jane”
The personal approach is different because here, the greeting is not that important. You can start your email with a personalized and friendly email greeting – try using the recipient’s first name, “Hi [First Name],” or “Hey [First Name]”. But it’s what comes next that really matters.
Begin with a personalized touch that acknowledges a shared experience, common interest, or recent interaction. For example, “I hope you enjoyed the conference last week!” This approach adds a human touch and fosters a deeper sense of connection, reminding the recipient of what you share in common.
If you’re sending the email hoping to connect with the recipient, this is the point to show genuine interest to make the email personal. This will encourage them to read on. You can demonstrate this by mentioning something specific that you appreciate about them and their work. You can also throw in some of your personal life updates.
🔥 Write your personal email opening lines in a conversational style that reflects your personality. Use natural language, contractions, and even occasional emoticons or exclamation marks to convey friendliness and enthusiasm.
And pay close attention to avoid your email sounding like it addresses multiple recipients at once!
4. The direct approach
The direct approach is effective when you need to convey a clear and concise message, such as when making a request or providing time-sensitive information. Your target audience here may be ex-customers of yours you want to drive back with a dedicated discount or a potential business partner.
This approach respects the recipient’s time and focuses on the importance of the message. So following greetings, get right to the point in your opening line by stating the purpose of your email as concisely as possible.
Keep your email greeting short and get straight to the point
Start an email with a strong opening sentence. A great example is, “I’m writing to discuss the upcoming project deadline.” Or “I need your help with [Specific task].” What comes before that hardly is as important as the actual request you’re about to make, so a simple email greeting along the lines of “Hi Tom” would do just fine for this kind of communication.
🔥 Avoid excessive pleasantries, unnecessary background information, or lengthy introductions, and stick to the essential details. But if the recipient is not familiar with you or the subject, provide a brief context to help them understand the purpose and relevance of your email.
The only downside to using this approach is the thin line between sounding direct and demanding when using action-oriented language. So while you strive to be direct in sending a professional email, make sure the mutual respect you and your recipient share for each other comes through.
5. The question approach
The question approach is ideal for sparking engagement and encouraging a positive response. It’s particularly effective when seeking the recipient’s opinion/input or initiating a conversation.
People are more inclined to interact with one another once they’ve had a chance to talk. That’s why icebreakers work wonders for new hires or students. Starting your email with a question plays the role of an icebreaker, encouraging the reader to participate more actively.
And to set the tone right, you can start an email with a question, too!
“How’s it going, Mary?”
The initial greeting sets the tone for the conversation, and starting it off with a question can imply that you’re looking for a reply or a follow-up from the start. But, similarly to the direct approach, it’s what comes after the initial pleasantries that counts.
🔥 Pose a thought-provoking and relevant question in your email opening line that invites the recipient’s input or opinion.
For instance, you can start off with “Have you considered [Idea]?” or “What are your thoughts on [Topic/ statistic/Fact]?” You can also go for the “Did you know [curious stat]?” tactic, but ensure you don’t come off as patronizing.
What to avoid
Whatever choice you make, ensure your opening question is relevant to the recipient’s interests and expertise or the purpose of your email.
Also, use a question that’s clear, concise, and easy to understand. Complex or convoluted questions may confuse the recipient and deter any email response.
Gamify your email for an additional impact
To draw some extra engagement from your reader (and especially if your email is meant for three or more recipients), you can include a quick trivia or a survey right into the body of your email and actually get them to answer your question.
🔥 After posing the question, make a smooth transition to the main purpose of your email. Explain how the question ties into the topic you want to discuss or the information you seek from the recipient.
For example, if you represent an NGO looking for new investors, your trivia can ask uncomfortable questions about the current state of the problem your organization tackles.
6. The reference approach
The reference approach is best used when you have a mutual contact or want to establish credibility by mentioning a relevant source or event. It also works well for brands providing social proof to abandoned-cart visitors or inactive customers.
“Tina suggested I reach out to you about a labrador puppy”
🔥 Start by referencing the shared connection. You may have a common ground with the recipient if you had personal contact in an event, are part of the same organization or publication, or had a previous conversation.
Here are great samples of how to start an email with the reference approach: “I was referred to you by [Mutual Contact’s Name],” “I saw on LinkedIn that we both attended [Event],” or “I recently read your insightful article on [Topic].”
This approach establishes immediate rapport and establishes your credibility simultaneously.
“10 people who purchased this belt also loved our new boots”
For brands, the approach is quite similar, except for referencing a specific individual, you’re appealing to the bandwagon effect, trying to persuade your customers that other folks share their tastes and interests.
🔥 Automated marketing tools, such as AI Product Recommendations, can help you establish exactly which product would drive the highest interest for a specific site visitor.
After establishing the reference, smoothly transition to your email’s main intent. Explain how the reference ties into the topic you want to discuss or the information you seek from the recipient.
7. The gratitude approach
The gratitude approach is ideal when you want to express appreciation or acknowledge a recipient’s contribution. It fosters goodwill and strengthens the bond between you and the person who assisted you. Gratitude works equally well for personal and formal emails, as long as it comes from the heart.
“Thank you for assisting me with the project!”
To execute the gratitude approach effectively, start with a warm greeting, “Hey [Recipient’s Name]“, or “Dear [Name].” Then go ahead and express your sincere appreciation for a specific action, assistance, or support to the recipient. It’s that simple!
Some of the great email opening sentences you can use are “Thank you for your invaluable input during yesterday’s meeting” or “I appreciate you taking the time to [Action].”
🔥 Ensure you’re specific about what you are thankful for and why. However, avoid excessive elaboration or unrelated details that might dilute your appreciation’s impact, especially in your opening lines.
Remember, expressing gratitude in your email introduction sets a positive tone and establishes a sense of goodwill with the recipient, but only if you come across as genuine. So ensure your email’s introduction is specific to your recipient’s actions or contributions.
Keep it real
Writing emails can seem overwhelming, but at the end of the day, it’s just another way to communicate with each other. Cut down the overthinking and imagine you’re facing the person you’re writing to. What would you say?
That’s likely the best scenario you should follow.
And if you’re still feeling stuck and not sure whether Amanda from payroll would be more likely to approve your sabbatical after being addressed as “Dear Mrs. Jones” or as “Hi Mandy” – consider delegating the task to AI!
At GetResponse, for example, you can create a complete email copy and design in a few clicks thanks to our AI Email Generator. Subscribe for free today and start sending better emails right away!
How to start an email: FAQs
1. What is a good starting email practice?
A good starting email may take different approaches depending on the goal of the email and the relationship you have with the recipient. For example, if it’s a cold email, the direct approach and the question approach can work great.
2. What is the first word of a formal email?
Salutations are usually the first word of a formal email, followed by the recipient’s name. So, for example, “Dear [name]”. You can also make your business emails sound a little less formal with the following first words, “Hi [name]” or “Hey [name]”.
3. How do you start a formal email to an unknown person?
The best way to start a formal email to an unknown person is by introducing yourself and why you are contacting them. You can also mention something you have in common with the recipient. For example, you can mention a conference or event you both attended.
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