When you submit professional correspondence to an individual or business, it is proper etiquette to use business-letter formatting. This is true even when the letter is submitted to someone you personally know. Five parts make up the basic business letter; the sender's address, date, salutation, body and closing. It is in the salutation that you make a connection with the reader. It's the equivalent of a handshake before doing business. The goal is to make sure there is nothing unprofessional or offensive in the salutation.
Don't Recreate The Wheel
Don't fret over how to put a new twist on the words used in the business letter salutation. Instead, use all of that creative energy to develop the body of your business letter. As a rule of thumb, keep the salutation simple. There are several traditional options available that have been tested and proved over time. Two popular examples of traditional salutations include, “Dear Jane Doe” and “Greetings, Jane Doe.”
Keep it Professional & Properly Punctuated
Keep the salutation professional, even when you personally know the individual you are sending the letter to. This is especially true when there is a possibility of other business managers or executives reading your letter. Don't use greetings such as, “Hello, My Friend,” or “Hey Girl.” Also, use the correct punctuation immediately following the salutation. For a business salutation, always use a colon instead of a comma. Include two line breaks, or double-space, between your salutation and the body of the business letter.
Use A Name
Always attempt to use an individual's name in the business salutation. Stay away from generic salutations such as “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom it May Concern.” By using the person's name, your salutation comes across as warm and friendly, instead of cold and generic. Using a name may also impress the letter recipient because you were diligent in searching out the name of the person you should contact. In some cases, the contact person's name is listed on the company's official or corporate website. If it isn't available there, contact the company via telephone to get the name.
Job Titles & Gender
If you are unable to pinpoint an exact name to use in the salutation, use the job title instead. For instance, if your business letter is in reference to a job, your salutation may read “Dear Hiring Manager.” If no specific job title is available, address the letter to a specific department, such as, “Dear Human Resources.”
Faizah Imani, an educator, minister and published author, has worked with clients such as Harrison House Author, Thomas Weeks III, Candle Of Prayer Company and "Truth & Church Magazine." Her dossier includes JaZaMM WebDesigns, assistant high-school band director, district manager for the Clarion Ledger and event coordinator for the Vicksburg Convention Center.