How to Address an Email to Someone You Don't Know
By Nicole Vulcan
A lot of business communication used to get started with a handshake, but that's just not the case anymore. In the 21st century, chances are you've "met" and interacted with many business and personal contacts without ever seeing their faces. Many of those interactions start with email communication. If you have to write an email to a person you don't know, follow a few basic rules to make sure you stay professional and don't offend.
Type a concise subject line that describes why you are writing to this person. Since you don't know the person, you'll need to be clear about why you are writing. People get a lot of spam in their inboxes, so if you have a personal or business connection, it may be a good idea to mention it in the subject line.
Use "Ms." or "Mr." and the person's last name in the greeting. Never assume a woman is married unless you know for sure that she is; as such, "Ms." is a more neutral way to address a woman. If you're not sure of the person's gender, don't guess; instead, use the person's first and last name. You can opt to use "Dear" if you'd like, as in "Dear Mr. Smith," but you can also leave off the "Dear" and just type "Mr. Smith:". Note that you'll need a comma when the "Dear" is used and a colon when it's not.
Describe the reason you are writing or the connection you have to the person in the first line of the email. Many people won't get past the first line of the email if they assume it's junk mail; likewise, some people read their emails on mobile devices, which sometimes show just the first line of the email when the emails are viewed in list format. By stating your intent up front, you'll be more likely to get a response.
- Stay cordial yet formal when writing to people you don't know, and try to keep the email short and to the point. As you develop a relationship with a person, it may be more appropriate to include jokes or emoticons, but for now, stay professional until you get some idea of the nature of your relationship.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.