Letter Salutations: Everything You Need to Know

It would seem that the easiest parts of drafting a letter would be the beginning and the end. After all, the opening and the closing are usually the easiest places to greet someone and tell someone goodbye when you’re in person. Sometimes this situation isn’t the case, and you may need help finding the right words to say. The choice of your recipient can change your salutations dramatically. Explore the following ideas for letter salutations to help you find the best message to express.

Purpose of Your Letter

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The purpose of your letter will set the tone for the language you use in your writing, including your greeting and closing salutations. Consider your audience because you will use different terms with a colleague versus your boss. Your letter purpose may include any one of the following:

  • Applying for a job.
  • Thanking a prospective employer for an interview.
  • Resigning from a position of employment or voluntary position.
  • Asking a business for a donation.
  • Thanking a business for its generous donation to a nonprofit organization or event.

These situations call for a formal letter rather than an email or note and should be written in a format that reflects that formality level. Researching your audience as much as possible will also help you craft your letter in the tone it deserves.

How to Begin Your Letter

Using the right greeting will set the tone for your letter. Beginning your letter correctly will be easier if you use simple letter salutations such as the following:

  • Dear Mr. Gray and Mrs. White.
  • Dear Judge Jones.
  • Dear John Doe.
  • Dear Dr. Smith.
  • Dear Dr. and Mrs. White.

Avoiding starting with the person’s first name, which can be misinterpreted as rude or abrupt. “Dear” is always a safe choice when starting a business letter. When writing to someone who has a medical degree or a doctorate, you can use the abbreviation Dr. With professions such as a judge or professor, you should write out the full title, such as Judge Brown or Professor White.

When addressing more than one person, you should write out each name individually and separate them by commas. For example, “Dear Ms. Smith, Mr. Jones, and Mr. Brown.” If you’re sending a letter to a married couple who shares the same name, you can address the individuals as “Dear Mr. and Mrs. Jones.”

You should avoid using Mrs. or Miss unless you’re confident about how the recipient prefers to be addressed. You’ll want to use Ms. or Mr. in a salutation. If the person’s gender is unclear, or you’re unaware of the preferred forms of address, you can do some investigating. If you don’t get a clear answer, write out the person’s full name and drop the title. For example, “Dear Blake Mayer.”

What Should You Do When You Don’t Know the Contact Person?

If you’re writing a letter and don’t have a contact person, you have a few options. If you’ve done your research and still can’t find a name, you can leave off the letter salutations and begin your letter with the first paragraph. You can also consider the following examples of greetings to use instead:

  • You can choose a general salutation such as “To Whom It May Concern.”
  • If you’re applying for a new job, use a greeting such as “Dear Hiring Manager.”
  • If you’re writing to a human resources manager but are uncertain about the manager’s name, use a general salutation such as “Dear Human Resources Manager.”
  • If you know that you’re writing to a man or a woman, you can always use “Dear Sir” or “Dear Madam” as a safe choice. 

How to End Your Letter

After you get the appropriate salutation at the beginning of your letter and your message completed, focus on the ending letter salutations. Without a proper closing, your letter will seem unfinished and abrupt. Discover some of the best options for finishing your formal letter. 

  • “Sincerely” or “Truly”: These options allow you to end your letter clearly and without much attention.
  • “Thanks again”: You’ve probably said thanks at least once in your letter already. Why not let the recipient know how grateful you are one last time?
  • “Respectfully”: Make sure this salutation matches the tone of your letter. 
  • “Warm Regards”: If you’re trying to include a little warmth in your letter without too much intimacy, “warm regards” is a safe option. You may want to wait until you’re more acquainted with the recipient before using this closing. 

What to Avoid 

First, avoid sounding too casual. Starting or ending as if you’ve known the recipient for years when you’ve actually never met can give the wrong impression to the individual. Even if you don’t know how to begin or end your letter, using one of the above phrases is likely a safer selection than the following:

  • Avoid signing your business letter with “Love” or “Fondly.”
  • “With love” can signal an intimate relationship with the recipient. This closing should be used only in letters or emails to someone with whom you’re very familiar. 
  • “XOXO” stands for “hugs and kisses” and should only be used for someone you consider to be a very close friend or a dear loved one. For this option, think children, significant others, or maybe your parents, but you want to avoid its usage in any professional setting.
  • “Cheers” is another phrase to avoid unless you’re sending a letter informing your co-workers about an upcoming happy hour at your favorite bar and grill.
  • “Your friend.” Only use this closing when you send a piece of correspondence to a close friend or a confidant.

Having the right letter salutations for your letter can help take your correspondence from impersonal and vague to a polished piece of work. If you’re struggling to complete your letter, Handwrytten offers ideas and options for handwritten correspondence designed specifically for you and your needs. Our personalized handwriting services allow you to choose from one of our specially prepared messages or submit your own. 

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