Today I had to write a formal e-mail to a professor from Brown University I had never talked to before. I have some questions regarding a research paper he wrote, and I have mailed him asking for some tips about it. I guess he will have a very tight schedule, so for sure answering a total stranger some questions about a paper he wrote seven years ago will not be a top priority for him today. Thus, I have to be kind and polite if I don’t want the mail to go straight to the recycle bin.

But not being a native English-speaker, I must recognize I sometimes have trouble regarding which is the correct way for the greeting and goodbye of the e-mails. I don’t want to cause a bad impression on the recipient with the first three words of the mail. I will have a world of chances to do it later, in the body of the text. Looking for guidance about this in the net I stumbled into a very interesting pair of posts. They are from Bobulate, a website I didn’t know before, and they were written long ago. But that’s the magic of the Internet, good contents keep popping up even several years later.

First we have the post on how to address someone when opening an e-mail. There you can find this table, presented in decreasing order of formality and spanning over e-mails.


But what I enjoyed most was the chart on how to say goodbye. It is a two-axis graph where several formulas are placed according to formatily of the e-mail and knowledge of the other person.


Use the information from the two figures in this post to open and close your e-mails. You will never incorrectly address anyone again.

P.S.: Of course, in my case with the professor from Brown I used the formulas “Dear Mr. K.” and “Best regards”

Salutation and closure of e-mails
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