Email etiquette – how do you write yours?

The days of letter writing is dead. Email, however is much more modern. Facebook (from what I can gather) is trying to kill of the humble email, but considering 90 trillion – yes, I said trillion – emails was sent in 2010, I think Facebook may have a fight on their hands. That averaged to 247 billion messages being sent per day. No wonder we’ve got a short attention span with all those messages we’re trying to read. Despite these trillions of emails, we don’t have a correct way for salutations and sign-offs. A debate on Radio 4 got me thinking – why do we not have a standard email etiquette?

With letters, you know where you stand. If you don’t know the name of the person, you write:

Dear Sir/Madam

And end with Yours faithfully.

If you know the person’s name, you end the letter with Yours sincerely. If you’re on a computer or typewriter (remember those?), you must press return six times, then type your name and sign in the space.

Writing emails is somewhat of a minefield. If it’s someone you don’t know, do you use ‘dear’ or ‘hello’ or even ‘hey’? I tend to use ‘dear’ however a friend finds that old-fashioned. She tends to use ‘hello’, which I don’t like. After making the initial contact, I tend to use ‘hi xxx’ as a greeting. If you applied the rules of letter writing to an email, most people would think you were rather odd, old or haven’t got to grips with technology.

You open up an email and read:


Did you scan in that ad?


What’s your reaction? Or:

Did you scan that ad?


Hi Sarah,

Did you scan that ad?

I’m not a fan of using just a name as I find that blunt and shocks my system when I open it. My immediate thought is that I’ve done something wrong or I’ve annoyed them! But I do prefer that to not having my name at all. For me using ‘hi’ is has a much more friendlier tone to it. After you’ve established a conversation, then I think it’s alright to lose the name.

So, what about the sign-off? The Radio 4 debate mentioned bw to end an email. I’ve never come across that before. To me that could be band wagon, barn wars, better weather… but it means best wishes to those in the know. My favourites are kind regards, kindest regards, regards, many thanks or thanks. With certain people, I even use cheers, which got the panel a bit hot and bothered.

The correct salutations and sign-off seems to be a personal preference and the meaning that you attach to them. So the question is – how do you write yours?


14 thoughts on “Email etiquette – how do you write yours?

  1. How to start an official e-mail is quite a difficult question. On one hand, “dear” does seem a bit too formal and old fashioned, Hi or Hello way too familiar. I usually tend to go with Good Morning/Afternoon.

    Some people just treat the e-mail as a casual way of communication, even if it is work related. I remember the exchange I had with my uni administrator, trying to find out if they received my test results, where she ended her email with “cheers”. It struck me as completely inappropriate way to end it, especially as a foreign student wouldn’t have a clue why it was used.

    • Sounds silly, but I’ve never really thought about starting an email with Good Morning/Afternoon. I guess I’m comfortable with ‘dear’. I agree that some people treat email as a casual way of communication, I suppose I’m guilty about that, but depends on what context, who I’m emailing and if I want to be friendly or not. It goes the other way, if I’m annoyed, I usually just start the email with their name or not at all.

  2. I do use to start my email with “Hello” and the name of the person, I usually end them with “Love”, but only because I’m used to write English email to my friends and not to a professional network which I think I would used instead of “Love” a “Best regards” or something like that.
    In French, that would be something like “Madame/Monsieur” and would end with “Mes salutions distingués” or “Mes sincères salutions” / “Je vous pris d’agréer mes sincères salutions”.
    As you can guess it, it’s really formal and non personal !

  3. Depends what I’m writing for. Job application, always ‘Dear’. After that, it normally goes straight to ‘Hi’ or ‘Hey’. In this case, I always let them make the movement from formal to friendly.

    Anything else, I generally use ‘Hello’ then reverting down to ‘Hi’ and ‘Hey’. If I know the person particularly well, I might even throw in the odd ‘word’, ‘werd’ or ‘homie’.

    Something else to mention is the use of the person’s address at the top of the page. Does anyone do that any more? I actually had someone look at my C.V.s and covering letters a few years ago and they said that I should still do it. Not really feeling the vibe on that one though.

    • Lol – homie! I still put my address, phone and email on my CV. It’s also so they have every means of contacting me. I also think employers expect it and also shows you have a permanent address.

  4. I’ve stuck to two types of sign off. One for friends, colleagues: Hi Joe, cheers Kitz. And for people I don’t know: Dear Joe, kind regards, Kitz. I think it still important to keep a touch of business and formality to work emails and save all the “c u l8r m8 LOL” for facebook and IM. Nice blog site btw, I read it and replied on my fone!

    • Cheers Kitz. Glad you like the blog. I still needs to get to grips with blogging and WordPress like a bit putting my blogging buddies on my blog roll :). I do agree with keeping some sort of formality to work emails, again, it depends on who I’m email and what I’m trying to say.

  5. Do you know, I can’t remember the last time I wrote a proper email! Having used the blasted thing since 1999 I’ve grown rather unfond of it. And I get too many through my inbox daily which just makes me ignore it!

    I tend to start with ‘Hi (or Hey) xxxx’ and end with ‘Regards’ when it’s a bit more formal or ‘Love’ when it’s someone I know. 😉

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