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Dr., Mr., Ms., Mrs., First Name, Last Name

Business email formality when addressing new contacts.

This is one of the topics I am asked about quite often. How do you address contacts when emailing them for the first time?

Business Addressing Etiquette

When you don’t know them at all or very well.

When you don’t know the contact at all or very well, always take the most formal approach, Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr., etc. However, you do not want to be too informal when it comes to business communications too soon.

Formalities are in place for a reason as they reflect courtesy and respect for the other side. Both of which are critical to forming long-term, mutually respectful, and beneficial business relationships.

You certainly do not want to provide the impression that respect and courtesy are not something you find important, right? This is why you want to use the highest level of formality until you get an indication that a less informal tone is okay.

You can tell if the other side is ready for a more informal tone by how they sign off their response to your email. Follow their lead, and you’ll never go wrong.

Double-Check Name Spelling

Please do not assume you know how someone spells their name. For example, some address me as “Judy.” I’m not a Judy. They see Judith and therefore assume I go by Judy with those who know me.

In business, you never assume the less formal version of someone’s name. If you are wrong, you just assumed you have a more intimate relationship than you actually have.

For those who address me as Judy, because I am less formal with them, they also tend to make the mistake of not noticing the correct spelling of my name in my reply. I’m not a Judy with a “y.” For the most part, I’m “Judith,” but with those who know me very well (family and friends), I sign off my emails with a “Judi.”

If you knew me well enough to take the liberty of approaching me less formally — you would know that. And for those who ignore how I actually spell my name, what do you think that says?

Avoid First Name Last Name Addressing

You also want to avoid the first name, last name trap. Some email software applications and programs will insert names for you. When I receive an email to “Dear Judith Kallos,” I know an automated process is involved. I also know that message is in no way truly personalized just for me.

If you don’t know the person you are contacting, this approach makes your email look like spam. Make sure that doesn’t happen!

How you address your email contacts will create an initial impression, set a tone and level of formality for the rest of your communications that can lead to positive relationship building. And that leads to more business.

Do not ignore the opportunity to impress by making sure you use the proper formality and spell the recipient’s name correctly. Easy and simple.

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