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How to Start an Email to a Stranger

By Adam Roberts



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When emailing someone you don’t know for the first time, there is a certain amount of awkwardness involved. You’re bursting into their day, often with a query that will lead to more work for them, so it’s important to make a good first impression. What seems like a small detail, like the style of greeting you open with, can feel like a huge issue. Here’s our two cents on how to structure your opening salvo.

Email awkwardness

If you’re needing to send an email to a company with many employees, and you don’t know how to directly contact the person you want to reach, you generally have to go through some sort of middleman manning the general email account.

You don’t know who’s going to catch the email, and it can be difficult to work out how to pitch your message.

  • “To whom it may concern,” sounds too formal and impersonal.
  • “Dear Miss, Dear Mister,” sounds too awkward.
  • “Hi,” is possibly too informal and direct.

Better options

  • Keep it simple: “Hello,” never rubbed anyone up the wrong way.
  • Keep it light: “Hi there,” is a more lighthearted way of starting an email, and gets around having to specify a particular individual.

The old-fashioned way

But the best option may be to avoid email altogether, or at least cut out some of the labor involved in getting in touch. Find the phone number of the company online, then call and speak to a secretary or other real-live person, then either ask them directly for what you need, ask to be put through to the relevant person, or ask for that person’s email address. Direct human contact, it’s worth a try!

Adam is SitePoint's head of newsletters, who mainly writes Versioning, a daily newsletter covering everything new and interesting in the world of web development. He has a beard and will talk to you about beer and Star Wars, if you let him.

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