Yes, I think people still write letters, but most of them are business letters. Most “friendly” letters have gone the way of e-mails. However, there are also business e-mails. This blog post is about openings and closings of both letters and e-mails, business and personal.
Most of us do the majority of our correspondence these days by e-mail. Yes, sometimes we do send a letter—usually a business letter—and many of the business letters we receive probably go into the junk pile.
Regardless of whether we are writing an e-mail or a snail-mail letter, the opening and closings are basically the same as far as capitalization and punctuation, which is what this blog post is about.
Much of the correspondence that is business related and e-mailed does take on a more friendly tone. However, there are still business e-mails that are more formal. Just because you are using e-mail doesn’t mean that you can address someone you have never met as “Hey, Joe.”
When you are addressing someone in a business setting for the first time, I would not recommend using just a first name unless you know it is fine with the person. (For example, perhaps they write to you first using just your first name; then it is up to you to decide. More formal is always safer at first.) If you know how someone likes to be addressed, then address them that way. If after you go formal the first time, they tell you it’s fine to use just a first name, or if they respond using your first name (unless they are “important”), go ahead and be more informal.
Please try never to use these salutations:
- Dear Sir or Dear Sirs
- To whom it may concern
Notice that I did not initial cap whom it may concern. Unless it is (of course) a name, only the first letter in a salutation is capitalized. However, usually the words are names or other words that are generally capitalized, so initial cap them.
If you receive a letter or e-mail and the sender hasn’t even bothered to find out your name, you probably would assume it was junk mail. Try to find a name to address a letter or e-mail to.
As a general rule, business letter greetings are followed by a colon. Informal and friendly communication use a comma:
- Dear Mr. Johnson:
- Hi, Joe,
- Mr. Johnson:
Technically, when you use Hi, Joe, there is a comma after Hi. The phrase Hi, Joe, is direct address, sort of like Come here, Joe. On the other hand, Dear is an adjective describing the name, so no comma.
If you need the plurals of some of the address abbreviations, here they are:
- The plural of Mr. is Messrs.
- The plural of Mrs. is Mmes.
- The plural of Ms. is either Mses, Mss., or Mmes.
These abbreviations are followed by a period in American English, but not in British.
Omit the comma before Jr. in a title if it is OK with the person you are writing to: Mr. Hank Jeffers Jr.
In the closing of an e-mail or a letter, only the first word is initial capped in cases where there is more than one word:
- Yours truly,
- With regards,
- Sincerely yours,
Let’s talk about “Thank you.” First, it is two separate words. Second, I don’t personally like it as a closing:
- Thank you,
I don’t like that. If I am going to say thank you, which I generally do in a business letter, I make it its own sentence or put it in a sentence, and then I do the usual closing.
- Thank you very much.
- Thank you for helping me out.
- Thank you for the fast response.
- Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you.
I would do this:
Thank you very much.
Grammar Diva News:
It’s holiday season, and here are eleven reasons why books make great gifts:
- Easy to find, easy to send. (There is even book rate!)
- Easy to wrap! No funny shapes!
- Come in a variety of prices.
- Aimed at whatever audience and age you need.
- Great for any gender.
- Come in lots of different topics.
- Can be shared or donated after they are read; they keep on giving.
- Portable, especially e-books.
- With enough books you can build a great holiday tree!
Now that I have enticed you, please consider a grammar book for someone you love this season!
The Best Little Grammar Book Ever: Speak and Write with Confidence – Best Reference Book, 2011 (first edition) from Bay Area Independent Publishers Association
The Best Grammar Workbook Ever – Honorable Mention for Best Reference Book, 2016, New York Book Festival
Fifty Shades of Grammar – Runner-Up for Best Nonfiction Book, 2016, Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (Educational and entertaining: Makes a great gift!)