Whether you're reaching out to an old professor or emailing a new colleague for the first time, setting the right tone at the top of your email is vital. The right greeting can lure the recipient in, give them a sense of your personality, and open them up to what you have to say. On the other hand, a miscalculated one may have them hitting delete before they get to the first line. Some people focus on making their business emails sound professional, but according to Boomerang data scientist Brendan Greenley, this doesn't always produce the best results. If you're looking to get a response, you should start off with a greeting that's casual and friendly rather than overly formal.
As laid out in a 2017 blog post reported by Travel + Leisure, Greenley analyzed more than 300,000 threads from public message archives to determine which greetings yielded the most responses. Casual greetings were most successful by far, with "Hey" ranking first with a 64 percent response rate, followed by "Hello" with 63.6 percent, and "Hi" with 62.7 percent.
More formal responses were still more likely to get a response than not, but by a smaller margin. People who started off their message with "Greetings" had a 57.2 percent chance of hearing back. For people who opened with "Dear," that chance was 56.5 percent.
Erring toward professionalism may seem like a safe bet, but a stodgy greeting may do you more harm than good. People often use formal language when emailing someone they don't know very well or someone they dislike, according to a study Greeley cites. By choosing more casual terms you can make your email feel like it's coming from a friend—even if you haven't met the recipient yet. But adopting an easy-going tone shouldn't mean putting zero effort into crafting your message. Proper grammar, punctuation, and brevity can also go a long way.
Of course, context is key: Greenley sampled these messages from online communities, which tend to be more casual than professional settings. So, if you don't think the president of your company would appreciate an email that starts off with "Hey," it's best to go with your gut.
[h/t Travel + Leisure]