Addressing Three People in an Email

By Laurel Storm

When sending an email, the opening salutation often sets the tone for the entire message, much like it does for its older cousin the paper letter. Addressing an email to one person -- or even two people -- is usually simple enough, but when you are sending the same message to three or more people things can start getting a bit muddled, and you run the risk of inadvertently offending somebody. Craft your salutations carefully to ensure your messages are taken the right way.

Keep it Even

Determine what you know about the three people you are emailing. If you have the same amount of information about all of them, crafting a salutation is simple: "Dear Jim, John and Jane" or "Dear Mr. Smith, Mr. Doe and Ms. Brown," depending on the level of formality. At times, however, you may not know something important about one of the three people. For example, Jim Smith is obviously a man and Jane Brown a woman, but Alex Jones may be either Alexander or Alexandra. In such a case, use the full name for all three people -- "Dear Jim Smith, Jane Brown and Alex Jones."

Varying Formality

Often, the level of formality indicated by the salutation affects the contents of the entire email. If the three people you are addressing merit different levels of formality, consider sending two or three separate messages rather than a single one. If you absolutely must send only one message, address each person with the appropriate level of formality rather than increasing or lowering it. For example, if you are emailing your professor and two of your classmates, open the message with "Dear Professor Keating, Neil and Todd."

Address with Care

Consider whether the three people you are sending the message to need to be included in a single conversation. For example, if you're inviting three of your friends to a party, it makes sense to use a single message; if you're organizing a party and three of your friends are helping, on the other hand, it may be better to send three separate messages, each of them containing only the relevant information. If you absolutely must send only one message, address the three recipients as normal in the salutation, but also do your best to identify which parts of the message are relevant to each of them.

Cc and Bcc

When addressing the email recipients in the salutation, consider how the message is reaching them. If you are emailing all three recipients using the "To:" or the "Cc:" field, include all three people in the salutation as normal, unless the message is primarily intended for one of the recipients and just sent to the other two for their information. If that is the case, address the primary recipient in the salutation and explain why you are also sending the message to the other two in the first few lines. If one or more person is receiving the message through the "Bcc:" field, ensure you don't include that person in the salutation to prevent offense.