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How to Start an Email to a Stranger

Email has become the modern, most popular, and most pervasive method of communication in the office.  However, sometimes you will need to email someone you do not know.  Whether they are an internal colleague, a client, or a vendor, emailing someone you don’t know, or a stranger, can be a nerve-wracking experience.  Learning how to start an email to a stranger is an art form and requires a little bit of finesse and practice to make work.

When you email a stranger or someone you don’t know, you are typically emailing with a certain objective in mind.  Therefore, it is imperative to begin your email in a cordial, polite, and professional manner.  Doing so will help you to garner their trust and will help you to make a great first impression.

Best Starting Email Format to an Individual

While the beginning of an email can feel awkward, especially if you don’t know the individual, it doesn’t have to be.  As always, you should keep things and the email simple and natural feeling.  You also don’t want to make any assumptions, especially if you do not know the individual you are emailing.

When you begin or start an email to a stranger or someone you don’t know, you can simply use the Mr./Ms. pronoun.  This allows you to take a more personalized approach to your greeting, while remaining neutral and professional.  You will want to avoid using the Mrs./Miss. when emailing a female colleague as you do not want to assume their marital status.

When you use the Mr./Ms. pronouns, you will want to follow it up with their last name.  This is more formal and professional.  In a professional, work setting, you do not want to call someone by their first name before having a deeper relationship with them.  As you are emailing a stranger here, you should go with the more formal introduction and utilize the Mr./Ms. format.

How to Start an Email to a Stranger

Best Starting Email Format to a Group

Emailing a larger group is definitely less awkward than emailing a single individual.  This is because you will be addressing the group as a whole and not a single individual.  As-such, you have a few options with how you would like to start the email.

The most formal start to an email to a group of people is, To Whom It May Concern.  This start to an email is an attempt to cast a wide net.  You are not speaking or addressing any one individual, rather looking to get the attention of the group as a whole.

While the “to whom it may concern” address in the start of an email can be used, many people opt to go for something a bit more personal.  It can be a tricky situation as you do not want to appear unprofessional, especially as you do not know the individuals you are emailing.

However, you can also utilize the moniker of Dear All.  While this is less formal, it is more personalized than the “to whom it may concern” which does not look to address any one individual.  The “Dear All” greeting is more personalized as it appears to address all individuals but is less formal in that it is a blanket statement.

Finally, you may opt to utilize the Hey All introduction.  While it is the least formal of the three, it is the one that appears most personal to the recipients.  With the “Hey All” address, you are introducing yourself in a less formal manner, creating a more personal and intimate relationship.

Understand Your Audience

When you write a business or professional email, it is of utmost importance to keep in mind your audience.  You should be gearing your email and your communication dependent on whom is receiving the email.  For example, you wouldn’t email your CEO in the same manner that you may email a friend or a close colleague.

Similarly, when you compose an email to a stranger or someone you don’t know, you should opt for a greeting that is more professional.  However, professionalism does not mean you have to exclude personality or flair.  It simply means that the email should be a bit more formal and shouldn’t be written in a sloppy manner.

How to Start an Email to a Stranger

Keep it Short and Concise

Additionally, as this email will be your first to the individual or group, you should aim to keep it short and concise.  You do not want to ramble along and discuss unnecessary details.  Similarly, you do not want to discuss many details.  Rather, utilize the first email as an introduction and provide a reason for the introduction.

From there, you can either schedule an initial call or look to discuss further via email.  However, as your email is your first level of communication with the individual or group, you will want to keep it straightforward and concise.  A simple greeting, with a simple introduction to yourself, and a quick, concise reason for the email is all that is needed.

Lastly, you should ensure that the subject of your email is straightforward and easily searched for.  Provide a clear reason in your email subject line on why you are emailing.  People are often inundated with emails, whether necessary or unnecessary.  You should help them to avoid missing your email by providing the reason for the email in the subject line.

Next Steps

In the business and professional world, it typically takes some time before a need or request is actioned on.  Therefore, you should always provide multiple ways and means for the recipient to reach out to you.  In addition to email, you may provide the recipient with your work or personal phone numbers.

You should also make them aware of your schedule and let them know to feel comfortable to setup further time to discuss.  While the initial onus was on you, you will want to defer to the recipient to further the conversation and discussion.  Working in this way allows for both parties to begin feeling more comfortable with one-another and helps to deepen the beginning of a relationship.

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