Yesterday I received an email from someone with the salutation, “Greetings!” While this is a commonly used introduction into an email, it made me chuckle, because the only way I could read it was in an extraterrestrial-sounding voice followed by the word “Earthlings…” It got me thinking about my email salutations, how I use them and why.
And then, as if a sign from the internet, when I opened up Huffington Post to see what’s going on in the world today, there’s an article about Email Sign-Off Etiquette! And because of that, I figured a blog post was just meant to be.
Just as everything you do in public relations requires you to think about the public first, email salutations and signatures are no different. You wouldn’t send the same signature to your mother “Love you!” as you would to your boss “Love…er…my job!” While those are two extremes, you get the point.
Here’s my basic go-to, that might work as a good guide for you as well:
- Close Friends/Family: Very casual, often includes exclamation points and words like “Hey” “Thanks”
- Peers/Colleagues: Slightly less casual, but not formal – Hi and Thanks are still used. Always use their name in the intro. (what if you accidentally entered the wrong email address?). Here you can use “Best” “Kind Regards” etc. to close out the email.
- Superiors: More formal; often more to-the-point and less conversational. These emails need to be succinct. Use the person’s first name (if that relationship is established, formal name if not) and close with a “Thank you” or nothing at all (see HuffPost article and note below)
- Unknown: Best to err on the side of formality; salutation includes formal address “Mr. Smith,”; email closes with a detailed thank you hinting at a call to action, such as “Thank you for assistance in this matter.” If you’re unsure of the person’s title, call their assistant and ask.
It’s important to remember that email is just another form of communication. Everyone uses language differently, and you always need to portray your individuality. For example, I don’t ever use “Hello” in an email because I can’t remember the last time I actually used the word. I use the word “thankful” more than “gracious” because that’s how I speak, and I want my email to portray who I am.
The HuffPost article mentioned above recommends getting rid of salutations unless they add something to the email. Don’t close with “Thanks” unless you’re actually thanking someone for something. (I guess I always considered it as shorthand for “thanks for reading my email.” But does that really add to the conversation?) So, this week I’m going to pay closer attention to my salutations, and taking a shot at leaving it off when I can.
How do you handle your salutations and signatures?