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

Properly addressing email to those you don't know.

If you are job hunting or want to communicate with those you do not know or have not met, addressing is very important. How you approach and address contacts you don’t know via email can make all the difference in how you will be perceived.

What is the proper way to address someone by email?

This all depends on your relationship and how well you know the person. Is the email personal or for business as well as the situation at hand.

If you do not know the contact very well or at all, always use the highest level of formality, Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr., etc., to start. Especially in business, you don’t want to get too informal too soon.

Formalities are in place for a reason. They reflect courtesy and respect for the other side.

You can tell when the other side is ready for a more relaxed tone by how they sign off their email or reply to you. Follow your contact’s lead, and you will never go wrong.

Don’t Take Liberties

Avoid assuming how names are spelled. For example, some who do not know me take a premature informal stance and address me as “Judy.” I’m “Judith.” Those who do know me know I am “Judi.”

If you knew me well enough to take the liberty of being less formal, you would know that. But then, some continue to email me as “Judy” without taking the time to notice that is not how I spell my name.

What do you think that says about their attention to detail? Always make sure that you are spelling your contact’s names correctly. Spelling names properly reflects that you are paying attention and is a basic common courtesy.

Be Conversational

You also want to avoid the first name, last name trap. There are software programs that will insert names for you. When I get addressed as “Dear FirstName LastName,” I know automation is at play. Who talks like that?

When I see this, I know there is an automated process involved, and the message is in no way genuinely personalized to me. For example, nobody in the real world addresses you by your first name and last name.

How you address your contacts will set the tone and level of formality. In addition, how you do so will lend to the perception of your level of professionalism, attention to detail, and communication skills. All of which can help to contribute to positive relationship building.

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