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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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:
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 ..."
A project manager sends out an email to the project team. The email starts with "Hello all, please prepare your status reports ..."
The CEO sends out an email to all employees and starts it with "Team, there has been some negative press coverage ..."
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.
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!
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:
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
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.