When it comes to writing business emails or letters, it’s vital that you must remain professional. It’s also very important that you do everything correctly. Ultimately, you will want to present yourself in the best possible light, without making any mistakes, thus sending across a great impression. One of the many things that must be contained in this professional formula is a salutation. ‘What is a salutation?’ Well, the clue is in the name – Salut, salute, essentially means a greeting. So in other words, make sure you greet the recipient in the best possible way.
The most common salutation included in business letters is often ‘To Whom It May Concern’. This salutation is employed when the writer does not know exactly who the recipient is. With this salutation, you can leave out the awkwardness of writing ‘Dear Sir’, only to send the letter to a female recipient, and vice-versa. To Whom It May Concern is, therefore, a good safety measure which will allow you to remain formal and professional, without embarrassing anyone. There are of course many other types of salutations which you can add to a business letter. These salutations we have included below. We have also included ways in which you can find out the recipient’s name, as well as other handy things when writing a formal business letter.
To Whom It May Concern and Other Formal Salutations
First of all, before we go any further, we would just like to make you aware of what else we have to offer on our website in regards to professional writing. If you are in the middle of the application process for a new job, we have complete ‘how to’ guides on writing the perfect CV, cover letter, letter of interest and resume, as well as a resignation letter if you should need it. In addition, we also have guides/help regarding interviews. Please feel free to browse our posts on behavioral interview questions and how to handle them, as well as phone interview guidance. That being said, let’s now take a look at letter salutations.
Where Exactly Do You Place Your Salutation/’To Whom It May Concern’?
The format of formal business letters is often the same. At the very beginning/top of your letter, you will often provide your personal/contact details. In the case of an email, you won’t need to provide this information. In a letter, your salutation/To Whom It May Concern will follow your personal/contact information. It will also be inserted on a line of its own. Here’s an example:
(Personal/contact details: name, address, email address, phone number, etc.)
To Whom It May Concern:
I am contacting you regarding a position opening in your school commencing September 22nd, 2018 …
Of course, as mentioned, in an email your personal/contact information doesn’t need to be included. Unless, of course, if you want to, or if it is vital. Therefore, your email can open with your salutation/To Whom It May Concern, and will thus be the first line of your email.
Do not under any circumstances write your salutation mid-paragraph or end your letter/email with it. A further tip – most salutations will be capitalized and followed by a colon. Example … ‘To Whom It May Concern:’
Why Not Search For the Recipient’s Name…
‘To Whom It May Concern’ may seem a bit too impersonal. If you don’t want to provide a salutation, but you would instead like to include the actual name of the recipient, there are ways in which to do this. Most applications or letters will include the name of the employer or recipient, but if this is not the case, you may have to go searching. Naturally, the internet is most often the place to find the name of the person in question. Try the official website of the company in which you are writing to. Search and try to find the person who is head of the department in which you are applying to. Alternatively, you can try searching for the hiring manager, or the person who takes care of applications, a.k.a administrative staff.
If you can’t find the name you need on the official website, it may be time to try social networks. LinkedIn is the professional alternative to Facebook, so you will find many employees from the company in question here. (Just a further note on LinkedIn: if you do not already have an account/do not use this website, it might be worth looking into. LinkedIn is a great place to present yourself as a working professional. It is therefore also a great place in which potential employers can find you and contact you).
If LinkedIn doesn’t provide the results you need, you may have to try Facebook and other such social networking sites. Alternatively, you can email the company and ask for the name of the person you want. Of course, make sure this email is formal and includes a salutation – most likely, ‘To Whom It May Concern’.
Some Alternative Salutations To ‘To Whom It May Concern’
In case ‘To Whom It May Concern’ feels too common or insincere, the following is a useful list of alternative salutations.
- Dear Sir/Madam
- Dear (Insert Person’s Name)
- Hello (A plain and simple hello can sometimes suffice)
- Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening
- Hi There (this is a much more casual greeting, so avoid using it if the message is very formal/professional/important)
- To the (Insert the Person’s Position at the Company). For example – “To the Head Of Administration at XYZ”. Alternatively, you can write ‘For the …’
What You Shouldn’t Write As A Salutation
Remember to keep things formal and professional. Therefore, avoid slang. For example, never should you write something like “Hey there pal” to a potential employer. Greetings such as ‘Howdy’, ‘How’s It Going’, ‘What’s Happening’ etc. should never be used in the case of a formal letter or email.
A salutation will always be the easiest part of writing a letter or email. But don’t take this for granted, for it may be the difference between you being taken seriously or not seriously, and therefore, the difference between you getting an interview or job, and not getting one.