I recently received an email I need to respond to, but I am unsure of the correct way to address the sender.

Dear Mr Sayse,

[ . . . email body . . . ]


Joe Bloggs

Is it correct to respond with the sender’s first name, or should it be in the same format as it was in the original email?

That is, which of these should it be:

  1. Dear Mr Bloggs
  2. Dear Joe

This is a formal email to be sent to someone I will be paying quite a substantial sum of money.

I suspect it should be the former but would like to make sure..

  • Seems like this should go to Etiquette.SE or Bizworld.SE instead. :)
    – tchrist
    Jul 3, 2014 at 7:33
  • @tchrist - Ah ok thanks , Theres that many networks now I chose this one since it is about language usage and I saw other questions about emails here
    – Sayse
    Jul 3, 2014 at 7:33
  • 1
    I was joking; hence the smileygraph.
    – tchrist
    Jul 3, 2014 at 7:37
  • Note also that formal salutations take a colon, while informal ones take a comma.
    – tchrist
    Jul 3, 2014 at 7:39
  • I included the punctuation is it is shown within the original email, nice to know though thanks
    – Sayse
    Jul 3, 2014 at 7:40

3 Answers 3


I would normally reply in the same form that I have been addressed. In your case then, this would be 'Dear Mr Bloggs'. If the other person signed off Joe, I might take this as a cue to adjust the term of address. If you see this or you see anything that suggests that moving a notch friendlier is called for, you can make the adjustment. There is the formulation 'if I may' that I've often seen when someone addresses a stranger by their first name: 'Dear Joe (if I may)'. If you do this, you should also sign yourself off by your first name.

  • +1 for this I would normally reply in the same form that I have been addressed. Not at all convinced by (if I may) though.
    – Frank
    Jul 3, 2014 at 8:48
  • But it is used, and it does indicate that care has been taken. At the moment my feeling is that it still serves a useful function.
    – Peter
    Jul 3, 2014 at 8:54
  • It's something I've never seen written. In speech yes, because the person is there to say No, you may not. I prefer to be addressed as Mr Bloggs. I do agree that if you are going to use first names you should also sign off with your first name. Times change and I'm usually behind them. :)
    – Frank
    Jul 3, 2014 at 9:01
  • I am inclined to agree with you and as much as possible I do try to return the emails with the same format. This email threw me off though probably due to not having spoken to this person in person before, I am too unsure about the "if I may" but it looks like it could be useful when creating a relationship between a customer or distant colleague
    – Sayse
    Jul 3, 2014 at 9:04
  • @Sayse: In this case you might just want to go for 'Dear Mr Bloggs' until you get to know each other better.
    – Peter
    Jul 3, 2014 at 9:11

Formal email = "Dear Mr. Bloggs", unless Mr. Bloggs is a very close friend, and the transaction is formal, such as arranging to pay a bar bet. Then 'Dear Joe" would suffice.


I would like to prefer Dear Joe instead of using Dear Mr. Bloggs because it seems better to use first one while replying to a received email.

If I am the first one to write an email then Dear Mr. Bloggs is good option.

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