How To Start a Professional Letter: Tips and Examples

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated October 17, 2022

Published February 25, 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Starting a letter with a professional greeting can establish a formal tone for your message. You can show respect to the reader and make an overall good impression, which can be important when you're sending business letters to clients and cover letters to prospective employers. Learning how to write a memorable greeting can help you capture the attention of the recipient and ensure that they understand your message. 

In this article, we discuss how to start a letter, explain what to include and not to include and provide tips with example greetings.

How to start a professional letter

Beginning a professional letter in the right way can show that you have strong written communication skills. Use the following steps as a guide:

1. Enter your contact information

When writing a professional letter, include your full address in the top left or right corner. Depending on the type of letter you're writing, this may be either your personal address or the address of your place of work. Include your name before your address and your email address or phone number so the recipient knows how to contact you.

2. Include the date

After writing your mailing address and contact information, mention the date you're writing the letter. Skip a line after your contact information and insert the date. Use the full date, which includes the month, day and year.

Related: Parts of a Business Letter: Examples of the 7 Components

3. Add the recipient's contact information

Add the recipient's full name and job title, and enter the full address of their workplace. Put this information on the left side of the letter and start a new line for each new piece of contact information. Here's an example of the format:

Dr. Steven Smith
Alpha Bricks Co.
120 Stone Drive
San Diego, CA 34567

4. Start with the most appropriate greeting

The greeting you use for your professional letter depends on your message. For example, if you're writing to a hiring manager, you may start with "Dear." Attach the recipient's title and name to the opening salutation to address them personally. If the audience for your letter is a department, you may start with "Greetings" to acknowledge every reader. 

Related: How To Address Someone in an Email (With Examples)

5. Use the most professional form of the recipient's name

When addressing the recipient of a professional letter, use the most formal form of the recipient's name. This may include their title and their last name. In some cases, you may choose to include both the first and last names of the recipient. For example, you may write "Dr. Julie Jones" or simply "Dr. Jones."

Related: 5 Steps To Finish a Letter (With Examples)

6. Begin the letter with an agreeable tone

Regardless of why you're writing the letter, begin your message with an agreeable statement. This can help the recipient begin reading your letter on a positive note and improve the chances that they're open to what you have to say. For example, you may start the letter by stating, "I hope this letter finds you well."

Related: Business Request Letter: Definition and Example

7. Open with the purpose of writing the letter

After an agreeable first sentence, state your purpose so the reader understands why you're contacting them. Use direct and professional language so the recipient can quickly comprehend your message. For example, you can say, "I'm writing to invite you to speak at my company's annual convention this May."

Related: How To Write a Cover Letter (With Steps, Examples and Tips)

What to include when starting a professional letter

The following are things you can include when beginning a professional letter:

  • A professional greeting: Use a business greeting to address the reader and show your respect. The most common professional greeting is "Dear," which you can use effectively in nearly every situation.

  • Formal language: Use formal language, even if you have a close relationship with the recipient.

  • Accurate punctuation: Include a period after the salutation, such as after "Mrs." and "Dr.," and end your salutation with a colon, such as "Dear Dr. Smith:"

  • The name of the recipient: Try to always include the contact name when beginning a professional letter. If you don't know the name of the person you're writing to, address the recipient in the most accurate and specific way possible, such as "Dear Hiring Manager" when you're writing a cover letter.

Related: Letter of Interest: Definition, Tips and Examples

What not to include when starting a professional letter

There are also a few things to avoid when writing a business or cover letter, which include   the following:

  • Informal greetings: There are a few greetings that are not appropriate when writing a professional letter. These greetings include "Hi," "Hey there" and "Good morning."

  • Outdated titles: While you may not always be able to include the name of the recipient, avoid using outdated titles when you're unsure of the contact person. Examples include "To Whom It May Concern" and "Dear Madam or Sir."

  • An honorific if the recipient's gender is unknown: In some situations, you may know the name of the contact person but don't know their gender. In this case, simply don't include an honorific, such as "Mr." or "Ms." before the name and only the first and last name of the recipient.

Tips on how to start a letter

The following are a few tips to keep in mind when beginning your next professional letter:

  • Use the first name in the greeting if you've known the recipient on a personal level for many years, or use only their last name if you're contacting them for the first time.

  • Use the most formal style of address if you're unsure of which greeting is most appropriate.

  • Always ensure the spelling of the recipient's name is correct before sending the letter.

  • Use a contact name whenever possible when beginning a professional letter.

Related: How To End a Letter (With 20 Closing Examples)

Examples of greetings for a professional letter

The following greetings are all acceptable ways to begin a professional letter:

  • Dear Mr. Sawit Bhumpol

  • Dear Ms. Zulawsky

  • Dear Dr. Cooper

  • Dear Sam Janssen

  • Dear Human Resources Manager

  • Dear Hiring Manager

  • Dear Cooks and Co Recruiter

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