Probably the most common question I receive is how to start and end emails and letters.
Let’s take letters first. They are less common these days but that also means that when you do write them, they are more likely to be formal.
- If you don’t know the persons name you start Dear Sir/Madam and you end Yours faithfully
- If you do know the persons name you start Dear Mr Last Name and end Yours sincerely
- In formal letters it is also good to have an introductory line and a closing line and to NOT use contractions (so always say ‘we are’ rather than ‘we’re’ for example)
- Yours Truly is not used in formal letters
- Americans sometimes write Sincerely yours but the letter format in Sweden is British.
- “Yours truly”, “Yours very truly”, “Truly yours” or “Very truly yours” IS used in formal American letters as a replacement for “Yours faithfully” and sometimes instead of “Yours sincerely” or “Sincerely yours”. (thank you Russell for this one)
- these are more likely to be in the form of emails these days.
More like spoken language but still business corresponcence so stick to
- Dear First name
- Dear Everyone
- Hello Everyone
- Dear Colleagues
for the opening (also called the greeting)
- Best Regards
- With Regards
- Best to you
for the closing (also called the salutation)
Useful rules of thumb
- to be more formal rather than less formal if you are not sure about the tone. Like going to a party wearing the wrong clothes, it is easier to dress down than up afterwards
- Avoid contractions unless you know the person very well. We speak in contractions (Sorry I’m late, I can’t make that time I’m afraid) but in any form of business correspondence avoid them as they sound sloppy and careless.
- if you use a comma after the greeting then use a comma after the salutation as well.