Effective Business Writing for Executives: Salutations in Letters and Email

Are you applying for executive jobs, inquiring with companies for possible executive career opportunities, or writing communication for your current company?

Using the right salutation for a business letter or email sets the tone in your message. It also shows the company you are writing to that you are familiar with proper business etiquette.

Check out these basic rules for using salutations in business writing:

  1. Identify the nature of your business letter or email

    This would help you determine whether you actually need a salutation or not. For example, if you are writing a business letter on behalf of your office whose recipient would be either from outside the organization or both inside and outside the organization, you definitely need to use a salutation. If you are writing, let’s say, a business memo directed only to people within your organization, you can do away with a salutation.

  2. Base the salutation you would use depending on the recipient and the nature of your relationship

    The standard salutation for a business letter is Dear, followed by the person’s name (including a title if it applies), closing with a colon.


    Dear Ms. Adams: or Dear Attorney Adams:

    For a personal letter, or a more social business letter, use the salutation Dear, followed by the person’s name (and title if applicable), closing with a comma.


    Dear Ms. Adams, or Dear Attorney Adams,

  3. Remember the basic rules for addressing recipients of specific genders, or addressing several recipients, or addressing people with titles, such as:


    • Except for cases where you are certain that a woman prefers Miss or Mrs., use the title Ms.

    • If you are unsure of the recipient’s gender, use the full name rather than a title.


      Dear M.A. Adams:

    • If you don’t know both the person’s name and gender, do not use the salutation “To whom it may concern.” Use the job title or a generic greeting instead.


      Dear Manager: or Dear Sir or Madam:

    • Writing to several people or a company

    • In addressing two or more people, use each name in your salutation.


      Dear Mr. Reyes and Ms. Adams:
      Dear Robert and Mary Ann,

    • If you are addressing a company, use the company name (although this would be slightly informal).


      Dear Copylandia:

    • Writing to people with titles

      Do spell out titles such as Professor, Dean, Sister, Rabbi, Imam, Senator, Governor, Captain, Admiral, Judge. Never spell out the titles Mr., Ms., Mrs., and Dr.

      When addressing members of the clergy, here are the appropriate salutations:

    • for the Pope, use Your Holiness:

    • for Cardinals, use Your Eminence:

    • for Archbishops and Bishops, use Your Excellency:

    • and for Monsignor, use Your Reverence:

    • A less formal approach applicable to the Archbishop and those below him in the hierarchy, use the salutation Dear, followed by his title and the person’s name, closing with a colon.


      Dear Archbishop Villegas:

      As for diplomats, use “Excellency”, closing with a colon, or for an informal approach, use the salutation Dear, followed by Mr./Madam and his/her title, closing with a colon.


      Excellency: (formal)
      Dear Mr. Ambassador (informal)

  4. When you don’t know the contact person

    If it’s the first time you are engaging a company and you have absolutely no leads or connections within the organization to find out specific contact persons, you may leave out the salutation and use a general salutation instead.

    However, do your best to find a contact person first, as this would usually appear unprofessional. Check out their website, social media accounts, or call the office directly to inquire for the details you need.

    When all else fails, use any of the following:

    • To Whom It May Concern

    • Dear Human Resources Manager

    • Dear Sir or Madam

  5. Avoid the mistake of spelling the name of your recipient wrong

    Check the company website, the person’s LinkedIn profile or call the person’s assistant to get the accurate name spelling, correct designation and title of the person.

    Get one of your friends to scrutinize your letter before sending it, to be absolutely sure you have all aspects considered. Writing an effective business letter would help you advance in your chosen career and build you up as an impressive executive.
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