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When writing emails, I come across a problem of whether I should refer to that person by name, or just a simple 'Hi'.

Like if I don't know say Thomas Anderson and I want to mail him for the first time, do I start with a 'Hi!' or 'Hi Mr. Anderson'?

I really don't know how formal this sounds, English is not my first language.

(I am asking this question when emailing people professionally)

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Similar concerns were discussed at length in this question: english.stackexchange.com/questions/8783/… –  Robusto Jan 15 '11 at 19:08
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1 Answer 1

up vote 7 down vote accepted

If you don't know the person, it is probably better to include the name. If it is a formal or business message, it would be wise to drop the "Hi" and simply use the person's title, whether it's Mr. or Ms. or Dr. (or for holders of political office, Mayor or Senator or what have you), followed by their name. I am inclined to think you don't need the "Dear", either.

Dr. Benson:

I'm writing to inquire about the possibility of an internship in your department. [Etc.]

This would be sufficient and would not cause offense through unwarranted familiarity and it would not come off as too casual.

If it were an email to someone you didn't know but the setting was casual (for example, you got their email address from a message board about a shared interest), you might use the "Hi" as in:

Hi Robert,

You don't know me, but we both frequent the Sprocket Collectors forum. I was interested in one of your posts and wanted to follow up on it.

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So, @Kris ... explain to me please exactly why you downvoted this answer. –  Robusto Mar 29 '13 at 12:35
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Ever since the famous "Just a friendly advice" answer (where one downvote prompted an avalanche of offsetting upvotes), I've started to wonder if Kris is Robusto's sock puppet. This only strengthens my theory. Incidentally, has anyone ever seen Kris and Robusto in the same room before? ;^) –  J.R. Mar 30 '13 at 22:23
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@J.R.: I think I could knit a better sock puppet than that. Nit one, Perl two ... –  Robusto Mar 31 '13 at 2:03
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