How to Head an Email Letter to Someone
Email letters have nearly replaced hard copy letters in the professional world. If you’re sending professional email letters, especially if you send them as part of your job search, it’s vitally important to format your letter in a professional way.
Email letters are not the same as personal emails you send to friends and family, so don’t make the mistake of formatting them in the same way. An email letter that’s too casual will at best make you look unprofessional, and at worst will be deleted or ignored.
4 Steps to Head an Email Letter to Someone
1. Use the right name and make sure you spell it correctly.
If this is a job search, check the job listing for the hiring manager’s name or call the main office to find out to whom you should address your letter. If the letter is regarding specific business at your organization, ask who the correct person is to contact about your situation.
The easiest way to figure out the correct spelling is is to look on the company’s website for an employee directory. You can also call and ask someone at the company to spell the name for you.
2. Verify gender.
This is obvious in cases like “Pat Jones” or “Chris Smith” but keep in mind there are men named Tracy and Lynn, and some women are named Michael.
The Virginia Tech Email Guidelines website offers the following script to verify a person’s gender: “I’m writing a letter to Pat Watford. I apologize, but I have not met Pat Watford and I want to properly address Pat Watford as ‘Ms.’ or ‘Mr.’ Can you advise me?”
3. Address the letter with Mr., Ms. or Dr. as appropriate.
Never use “Mrs.” or “Miss” as it makes an assumption about marital status that some women may find offensive. “Ms.” is the appropriate salutation for women, except in cases where she has a Ph.D., M.D., or any other doctor degree in which case she would be “Dr.”
4. Start with “Dear”, the person’s name and then a colon.
Just like in a hard copy professional letter, your heading should be formatted as follows, “Dear Mr./Ms./Dr. Lastname:” Note the colon after the last name. It’s common business practice to format all professional letter headings in this way.
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