Here's the Most Effective Way to Start an Email (and the Greetings You Should Avoid)

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White-collar workers spend an average of four hours per day checking business-related emails, according to a recent Adobe survey of more than 1000 office employees. Want to ensure your message actually gets read and leaves a positive impression on the recipient? A carefully crafted introduction goes a long way, according to Business Insider, which spoke with business-etiquette expert Barbara Pachter and Will Schwalbe, co-author of the 2010 book Send: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do It Better.

Chances are you’ve sent a cold query that opened with the phrase ‘To whom it may concern…’—but according to BI, the only thing anyone should be concerned about is coming up with a different opener. This one is impersonal and dull, and worst of all, it may make the recipient think the email isn’t actually meant for them.

Informal (read: unprofessional) greetings to avoid include “Hey!”, “Hey there!”, and “Yo!” On the flip side, “Dear Ma’am” is way too formal and may even be offensive to some women who feel like the term is ageist. (Other too-stiff greetings include “Dear Sir or Madam,” and Mr./Mrs./Ms. [last name].)

When in doubt, simply write ‘Hi [name]’—and if you feel like being more reserved, you can always opt to use the recipient’s last name. In the meantime, you can learn which other forms of address are best banned from work emails by checking out Business Insider’s full article.

[h/t Business Insider]