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Is it correct to use "Dear All" at the beginning of the e-mail, when you are writing to more than one person?

It seems so informal to me. Is there any better way?

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@kiamlaluno hmm, I thought multiple means more than one –  tugberk Jun 30 '11 at 12:10
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A former colleague of mine starts his group-emails "Dear Each," which is slightly less formal but somehow feels more direct / more inclusive –  Waggers Jun 30 '11 at 13:26
    
hmm, an alternative and looks better than Dear All –  tugberk Jun 30 '11 at 13:32

5 Answers 5

up vote 4 down vote accepted

It depends on how formal or informal the tone of conversation is.

First and foremost, consider who the audience is and what level of formality is appropriate to address them. There is no one blanket one-size-fits-all "best" way. If you address a group of colleagues in your own company, you may want to use "Hi all, ...". If you address the shareholders of your company, you may want to be more formal, e.g. "Dear Shareholder, ...". If etiquette is really important, you may want to invest in a mail merge to email, so you can address each person individually and avoid the mass email feel altogether.

In internal company communications, I've seen the following variants in action:

  1. the IT Help Desk sends out an email to all employees to notify them about a system change. The distribution list is "All employees". The email does NOT start with an address at all, but delves right into the subject: "Please note: tomorrow morning there will be an outage ..."

  2. A project manager sends out an email to the project team. The email starts with "Hello all, please prepare your status reports ..."

  3. The CEO sends out an email to all employees and starts it with "Team, there has been some negative press coverage ..."

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It is informal, and there are better ways :

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen/Dear Sirs/Madams:/Dear Readers

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Dear Readers It sounds a little... funny. Is it being used commonly? –  tugberk Jun 30 '11 at 10:52
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For editorials, and stuff. –  Thursagen Jun 30 '11 at 10:52
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I'm not sure that I've ever seen "Dear Readers" used in a way that isn't either supercilious or tongue-in-cheek. –  user1579 Jun 30 '11 at 12:40
    
What's this? It's used in business letters, I presume... –  Thursagen Jun 30 '11 at 12:44

It's just an extension of "Dear Sir" or "Dear Madam" when writing to multiple people - which is easy to do in the context of emails.

It was probably intended to be a little cute when first used, but it seems reasonable now, and not too informal.

I must admit, though, in an email to professional colleagues, I'd probably use another salutation.

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I must admit, though, in an email to professional colleagues, I'd probably use another salutation. could u share them? –  tugberk Jun 30 '11 at 10:51
    
I would probably address the email to the principal recipient, and let the others figure out they're included by virtue of the CC list. That may be a little too informal for some organisations, but it works very well in the place I work. –  pavium Jun 30 '11 at 10:58

If you are writing (whether e-mail or letter) you should show the appropriate degree of formality both for the subject of your letter and for your English language skill. I think it’s perfectly acceptable to start an Email “Dear Mr Smith” or “Dear Andy”, if that is the required level of etiquette, or “Hey Andy” if more familiar. When addressing a group, you need to adopt a style that is appropriate for everyone in the group. If you are addressing subordinates, and want to have a chatty style, why not “Hello everyone” or even “Hi all” … but “Dear all” is just wrong!

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Speaking as someone who has been using email for 30 years, I never use a letter-style salutation in one, and it raises my hackles a bit in the (rare) instances when someone else does it.

Despite the terminology the creators of email used, emails are a completely different beast than snail-mail letters. The instant delivery creates a person-to-person feedback that is far more akin to a telephone conversation. They don't cost the sender money, like mail does. Instead they are essentially free to send, like a telephone call. Thus they really should be treated almost like a telephone conversation.

So Emails are not letters. They are conversations. You don't start a conversation (even with a group of people) by walking up to them and saying, "Dear Listeners, ..." do you? You'd be mighty suspicious of somebody who did, wouldn't you? They are probably selling something, at best.

Now I generally try to be tolerant of folks with differing opinions on matters of style, but I think I've earned the right to be a curmudgeon on this one:

  • Emails do not get salutations. (no "Dear suckers,")
  • Emails do not get closings (no "Yours truly")
  • Emails may have signatures. However, they should ideally be no more than three lines of text, and should not contain verbiage that threatens the reader in any way. (no Copyright notice, legalese instructions, etc.)

This seems to be mystifying some of you youngsters, so let me show you an example of how one contacts a vendor one does not know. This is the first line of a "first contact" email I sent to a vendor 6 months ago:

I hope you are the right person to ask about this. I got your email from the attached message forwarded to me by {name redacted} yesterday.

No salutation. It does however establish who I (think I) am to this person in a humble tone that is implicitly apologetic for the interruption in their day. For you students of nettiquete, it obeys the Core Rules of Nettiqute. Primarily rules 1,2, and 4. Remember the Human. Adhere to the same standards of behavior as you would in real life. Respect other people's time.

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totally wrong. let's say a customer asking for a product's price. how would you start the e-mail? Hey there or hi –  tugberk Jun 30 '11 at 12:26
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I think that completely depends the context and use the email is for. Some email is conversation. Some is most defintely an electronic letter. The use or non-use of salutations varies accordingly. –  neil Jun 30 '11 at 12:30
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+1 for @neil. 100% true. No one can deny that e-mail is not a electronic version of letter. –  tugberk Jun 30 '11 at 12:32
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@T.E.D. sorry man, I can see that you've been dealing with e-mails for long time but I've been too with serious business firm leaders and It is pretty commonly known that e-mail are electronic letter. –  tugberk Jun 30 '11 at 13:18
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@T.E.D. You're right, emails aren't the same as snail mail letters. But they're not the same as telephone or face-to-face conversations either - and even those usually start with some kind of greeting - "Hello", "Good morning", etc. before launching into the content. Therefore salutations in emails are not out of place. –  Waggers Jun 30 '11 at 13:23

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