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10/12/14 - Email Tips: If You Want a Response, Never Start a Message Like This

The beginning of your email is a make-it or break-it moment. Make it, and you might get the recipient to continue reading — break it, and they’ll be clicking the delete button faster than you can say “sayonara” to your chance of connecting with them.

And what’s the very first thing your recipient will read? Your greeting. There are a lot of less-than ideal ones out there, but a recent Business Insider article declared one the worst:

“To whom it may concern.”

Business Insider warns:

“Though the greeting may seem innocuous, it comes off as impersonal and old fashioned — and reeks of a mass-produced spam letter.”

We completely agree, and we’ve even got two more to add to the list:

Dear Sir or Madam
Dear Webmaster
A better way to start an email
The common thread through these greetings? They’re impersonal. As the article suggests, you should take time to figure out who you’re writing to — and then use their name. This small act of personalization will give your email a much better chance of being read, and being taken seriously.

To find the appropriate person’s name, comb through the company’s website, look it up on LinkedIn, or even call the company to ask directly.

Brazen editor Alexis Grant also recommends the email tool Rapportive, saying: “Sometimes I even use [it] as a research tool, typing an email into Gmail’s “to” field without any intention of writing to that person just to see what information Rapportive pulls up.”

However you do it, just make sure you never use “To whom it may concern” ever again.


By Susan Shain 

Susan Shain (@TravlJunkette) is a travel blogger who loves helping people discover adventure through international travel or alternative careers.