If you are looking for a job or want to communicate with those you do not know or have not met, how you approach and address them via e-mail can make all the difference in the world how you will be perceived.
What is the proper way to address someone by e-mail?
This all depends on your relationship and how well you know the person, if the e-mail is business or personal, as well as the situation at hand.
If you do not know them 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 reason as they reflect courtesy and respect for the other side. You will be able to tell when the other side is ready for a more relaxed tone by how they sign off their e-mail or reply to you. Follow their lead and you will never go wrong!
Never assume how names are spelled either. For example, I have those who do not know me who assume a premature informal stance and address me as “Judy.” I’m “Judith” but with those I do know very well and that I have an established relationship with, I will sign off my e-mails with a “Judi.” If you knew me well enough to take the liberty of calling me by an informal version of my first name you would know that.
Then, there are those who continue to e-mail 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? It is very important to make sure that you are spelling your contact’s names properly. Spelling names properly reflects that you are paying attention and is basic common courtesy.
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 Judith Kallos” — who talks like that? Who addresses communications like that? When I see this I know there is an automated process involved and the message is in no way truly personalized to me. 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, as well 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.