How to start an email for work

How to start an email for work
SEEK content teamupdated on 28 February, 2024

The average office worker sends roughly 40 emails per day – they’re undoubtedly one of the most important forms of communication in the workplace. Whether you’re talking to clients and customers, managers or co-workers, crafting a professional and effective email is key to successful projects and relationships. 

That’s why it’s essential to start off on the right foot. A strong email opener can help make a good first impression on the recipient, especially if it’s your first time contacting them. If you’re wondering how to start an email professionally, follow this guide for tips and examples on penning an effective email, no matter who it’s for or what it’s about. 

The importance of the first impression in email communication

Whether you’re jumping on a phone call, dialling into a video conference or sending an email, the same logic applies: a strong greeting and introduction go a long way to creating a positive first impression. A strong opening also lets the recipient understand what your email is about from the first line, and sets the tone for any emails going forward. With so much workplace communication conducted via email these days, writing effective emails is an essential skill for practically any industry. 

How to start a professional email

The importance of a well-written email is hard to understate, so it’s important to get it right from start to finish. Here are a few steps to follow, to help you start a professional email.

Step 1: Know your audience

Who’s going to be reading your email? Perhaps you’re reaching out to a customer. Or maybe you’re working with a colleague on a project. Having a good understanding of your audience will help you to tailor an appropriate greeting. Consider whether you’re emailing an individual or a group of people and how well you know the recipients. This will determine whether you start with a more formal greeting or if you can keep the tone more casual. 

Step 2: Keep your email concise

A long-winded email can confuse and frustrate its readers – especially when time is of the essence. Always be sure to keep your email communications as clear and concise as possible. Once you’ve got your greeting established, it’s best to get straight to the point. By the second or third sentence, the recipient should have a good understanding of why you’re reaching out and what it is they need to do on their end. 

Step 3: Use a polite and professional tone

Whether you need to know how to start a formal email or one that’s a little more laid-back, it’s important to make sure you keep your tone polite, friendly and professional throughout. Avoid using overly friendly language and using too many emojis. 

Step 4: Create a clear subject line

A clear subject line states the topic of the email, letting the recipient know exactly what the contents are about. While it’s important to keep your subject line short, you don’t want it to be so lacking in detail that the recipient won’t understand the context of your email – or can’t find it later on when they use the search function.

Step 5: Include a clear call to action

Whether you want your colleagues to respond to a meeting request or you need someone to provide a specific bit of information, including a clear call to action is the most effective way to get the outcome you’re seeking. You might even want to consider putting your call to action at the beginning of your email so the recipient knows exactly what they need to do.

Step 6: Proofread your email

Before you hit send, don’t forget to proofread your message. You might even want to save it as a draft for a short period so you can come back to it later and review it with a fresh set of eyes. Sending an email with spelling mistakes or grammatical errors is a quick way to make a poor impression or relay the wrong information – so be sure to double-check your email before sending it out. 

How to start an email to different audiences

One of the key aspects to writing a good work email is knowing your audience. Adapt your approach and tailor your greeting to the recipient and your relationship with them. Considering your audience carefully also helps you to identify any potential cultural considerations you should be aware of. 

When it comes to writing an email to your boss or for a situation where more formality is required, you might consider one of the following greetings:

  • Dear [name]
  • Good morning [name]
  • Good afternoon [name]

If you’re sending an email to a workmate or your team, it might be appropriate to use a more informal greeting like:

  • Hey team
  • Hello everyone
  • Hi [name]

Common mistakes to avoid when starting an email

While it’s important to understand the specifics of writing an effective email, it can also help to understand common mistakes you should avoid. An email littered with mistakes can reflect poorly on you, and even lead to miscommunications.  

When it comes to starting a work email, here are some things to avoid:

  • Not personalising the greeting
  • Using overly casual or formal language 
  • Getting the recipient's name wrong
  • Using emojis
  • Including typos or spelling errors 
  • Providing an unclear or misleading subject line

Tips for professional greetings

Wondering how to start a formal email? Here are some quick tips to putting together a professional greeting:

  • Use the recipient's full name in formal communications when you haven’t previously interacted with them.
  • When writing to a team or department, address your email to the group or the most senior position, e.g., “Dear Head of [department/team]” or “Dear X Department”
  • If you don’t know the name or position of the recipient (say you are writing an email for a job application), use “To Whom it May Concern”.
  • A simple “Hello” or “Hi” should suffice when emailing someone you communicate with regularly.

Tips for strong opening lines

Once you’ve got the formalities and greetings out of the way, it’s time to craft a strong opening line. Your opening line can serve a few purposes, depending on the situation and the recipient. If it’s your first time contacting them, you can use your opening line to explain who you are and why you’re reaching out. If you’ve spoken to them before, then the opening line can be a great way to build your relationship by asking how they are. 

Examples of email greetings and opening lines

Now that we’ve covered the basics of starting a work email, here are a few examples of different greetings and opening lines that you can use, based on a variety of different work contexts.

Formal business email

Whether you’re communicating with your manager, a client or another important stakeholder, it is best to err on the side of caution and keep your email a little more formal. Here’s an example of how you could start a formal business email:

Good morning [name],

I hope this email finds you well. I am writing to update you on… 

Casual business email

If you’re touching base with a colleague that you’re familiar with, you can keep the tone friendly and casual by starting with something like this:

Hi [name],

How are you? I hope you’ve had a great week so far…

Cold business email

When you’re contacting potential clients or other contacts for the first time, it helps to personalise your email by addressing it to the recipient directly. Keep your tone friendly and professional. Here’s an example of how you could start an email to a new contact:

Hello [name],

My name is [name] and I’m reaching out because…

Group business email

Need to send out a group email? Addressing the team as a whole helps to create a friendly, collaborative tone. Here’s an example:

Hi team,

I hope you’re all having a great week…

Email to unknown recipient

When it comes to emailing an unknown recipient, knowing the right greeting is a bit more difficult. Using a greeting like “Hi there” can help to strike a balance between friendliness and professionalism. For example:

Hi there,

My name is [name] and I’m touching base to ask about…

Job application email

Sometimes, sending a job application email is the first impression a potential employer will have of you, so it’s important to start things off on the right foot. Be sure to include the name of the recipient, if you’re able to track it down. Here’s how you could start off a job application email if you know the recipient: 

Dear Mr/Ms/Mrs [name],

I am writing to submit my application for the position of [job title] for consideration…

Customer service email

When it comes to writing an effective customer service email, it’s essential to approach it with compassion and authenticity. Make them feel valued and assure them that their concern is important and you’re taking steps on your end to rectify the issue. For example:

Dear [name],

Thank you for taking the time to reach out to us, we really value your time…

Networking Email

Effective networking is vital for establishing professional connections and building relationships. Use a warm and friendly tone to get the conversation started, like:

Hello [name],

I hope you don’t mind me reaching out directly, but I recently came across your profile and I couldn’t help but notice…

Mastering the art of email communication is an essential workplace skill. While your body copy is important, starting off your email with a strong greeting and effective opening line is a great way to make a positive first impression. From understanding the intended audience to mastering the tone of your message, it’s amazing how a few short sentences can have a huge impact.

Now you have the tools for a great email opening, take a look at how to end an email professionally.


How do you start a professional email?

A professional email should start with a greeting that’s appropriate for the intended audience. You should then follow it with a strong opening line that clearly and concisely conveys the purpose of your email. You can also include a call to action in the first few sentences of your email so the recipient knows what’s expected of them from the get-go.

What is a good phrase to start an email?

The best phrase to start your email depends on your audience and the intention of your email. You typically can’t go wrong with asking how the recipient is or asking how their week is going. 

Is it okay to use ‘Dear’ in a professional email?

Using ‘Dear’ in a professional email is a great way to formally greet the recipient. This is a safe bet if you’ve never met them before as it helps to communicate a level of respect. If you have a more friendly relationship with the recipient, you might want to use a more casual greeting, like “Hey [name]” or “Hi name!”

How should I start an email if I’m unsure of the recipient’s gender?

Rather than use a vague greeting, keep your emails personal yet professional by addressing the recipient by name. If you’re not sure of the recipient’s title, you can address them by their full name or first name, rather than assume they take Mr, Ms or Mrs. For example: “Dear Alex Smith” or “Dear Jordan”

Is it acceptable to start an email with ‘Hi’ in a professional context?

Starting an email with ‘Hi’ or ‘Hi [name]’ is appropriate in a professional setting if you’re aiming for a friendly yet professional tone. ‘Hi’ is less formal than alternative greetings like ‘Dear’.

More from this category: Workplace skills

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