June 6, 2009
Granted, there are not as many opening salutations as there are closings. But there are a few to choose from, and some are more appropriate than others, depending on the context of your correspondence.
From the formal to the friendly, there’s a greeting for all your communications:
Business letters and e-mails
Dear Mr. Smith:
Dear Ms. Johnson:
Dear Mrs. Jones:
Only use Mrs. if you’re sure the recipient is married and prefers to be addressed this way; otherwise, use Ms.
First names are acceptable, but only if you’ve previously met the recipient—and even then, you may want to err on the side of formality.
Dear Chris Brown:
If you do not know the recipient’s gender, use their full name (but always attempt to find out their gender first).
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen:
To Whom It May Concern:
Use this as a last resort and only if you’re unable to find out anything about the recipient(s).
Dear Sir or Madam:
Use sparingly; this one has become a bit dated.
Friendly letters and e-mails
In general, less formal salutations take a comma, while formal ones take a colon.