Deciding how to address an email is easier when you are sending a reply. Because, when replying an email, it’s safest to match the sender’s tone and level of formality, especially if they are a client. If you receive a “Hello Ms Quarshie” or “Dear Naa” you reply with a “Hello Mr. Mensah” or “Dear Yoofi”. Also, how you sign off is as important and there are a few rules to follow.
Below are the general rules for business correspondence.
Use “Yours Sincerely” when addressing the recipient by name. For instance:
Formal opener: Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms/Mx Akoto
Formal closing: Yours Sincerely
Use “Yours Faithfully” when the recipient is not addressed by name. For example:
Formal opener: Dear Madam / To Whom It May Concern
Formal closing: Yours Faithfully
In British English both words are often capitalised, as in ‘Yours Sincerely’ whereas in American English the standard is to only capitalise the first word, for example: ‘Yours faithfully’ or’ Yours sincerely’.
‘Sincerely’ is common way to sign emails to people you don’t know very well. Other forms of salutations and signoffs include:
Yours truly – In British English, Yours truly was historically used when writing to someone of higher status.
You can also write ‘Thanks’, ‘Thank you’, ‘Many thanks’ or ‘Much appreciated’. ‘Thanks’ is however considered to be less formal.
‘Cheers’ is fairly an acceptable way to sign an email to a colleague. It is however considered casual and it is absolutely unacceptable to sign, for example, a sponsorship letter with ‘Cheers’. Like ‘Cheers’, save ‘Warm regards’, ‘Warmly’ and ‘Take care’ for people you’re close to or friendly with.
‘Regards’ is short for ‘Best regards’ or ‘Kindest regards’. ‘Regards’ is considered a less formal and friendlier way to sign an email; it is acceptable between close business colleagues. Similarly, ‘Best’ and ‘All the best’ are less formal. ‘Respectfully’ is a very formal way to sign an email, it also suggests a bit of deference.
What if you want to deviate from the generic “Dear sir/madam”? Then you also have to worry about who is Miss, Mrs, Dr, Mr, or Prof. I recommend making an actual effort to find out the recipient’s preferred gender or title by goggling or by contacting someone who may know them.