Writing Professional Salutations for Business Letters
Writing professional salutations for business letters can be a daunting task. While writing a letter to a friend may be easy, there are simply too many formalities that go into writing a business letter. How should you address the reader? What words are appropriate, and when should they be used? Is there a difference between a letter written to a known associate and one that is being sent without a proper introduction? There are simply too many questions for the first-time writer to have to answer before writing a business letter.
Always Start with Dear
The word “dear” screams niceness and is a very neutral word to use. When sending a letter to a business, it is important to use “dear” regardless of the circumstances. Not only will this be used to lure in potential buyers, but it can also make hearing bad news a little more favorable. When in doubt, the word “dear” should always be used. In fact, it is a necessity.
Titles are Confusing
Those that have had a higher level of education will want to be known by a specific title. If a person has underwent the education to be deemed a doctor, they will always want to be greeted as such. However, it can often be impossible to know a person’s level of education without doing a background check or knowing them personally. When this is the case, there will be a simple option that is available, “generic titles.”
There are times when a person should use a generic title. In fact, if you don’t know a person’s academic achievements, a generic title will suffice. For a man, a simple “Mr.” will do. The same can go for women with “Mrs.” and “Ms.” being the male counterpart. However, if a person’s name is vague, calling them by the wrong title can lead to a huge misunderstanding.
When addressing a person with a gender-neutral name, it will be important to skip the salutation altogether. Instead, simply address them by their name and proceed from there. Dear John Doe is better than Dear Ms. John Doe. It is always better to be safe than sorry in the professional world and making one mistake can lead to a person completely neglecting to read the rest of a business letter.
Writing to a Business
When writing directly to a business and not a particular person, it is an acceptable practice to merely include the business name after “Dear.” This is a practice that is neutral and can be utilized when you do not know who the receiver will be. Furthermore, “Dear recipient” may also suffice in some circumstances, but should only be used as a last resort.
Skip the Salutations
There are also times when salutations can be skipped completely. While this may not be acceptable among businesses that have partnered with you, it will be okay with most other businesses. Instead, simply start the letter with a title so that the reader immediately knows what the letter pertains to. For example,
Your XYZ Credit Line Has Been Increased
This is the perfect example of a title that can be used in lieu of a salutation.
Using Commas or Colons
There is a difference between writing in British English or American English. The former will require the use of a comma after the salutation where the latter will require a colon. However, many Americans are conforming to the British ways and use of the comma is now being accepted. In either case, a comma will usually be accepted and is often overlooked by most business professionals.
Always Use Full Names
Just because you know a person well does not mean that nicknames can be used in the business world. Rather, always use a person’s real name so that your letter comes across as professional. If a person is called “Mike” by their friends, there is a good chance that their actual name is “Michael.” Always use the complete name so that when the letter arrives, it is as professional as possible.
Double Check Spelling
Some names are spelled drastically different from others. Since this is the case, it is important to always double check the spelling of your recipient’s name so that it is never misspelled. This may mean going to a company website to ensure that name is spelled correctly or flipping through a rolodex. In either case, a misspelled name is a big “no no” in the business world and has to be avoided at all costs.
If a salutation does not open properly, it can lead to a letter being disregarded completely. Following the tips above, you will be well on your way to writing the perfect business letter. Remember to always speak in a professional manner and leave any slang words out of the letter. The goal of a business letter is professionalism and one wrong word can completely change a company’s image.