So what’s wrong with using hi? Nothing – just know when to use it. This is a common linguistic ’danger zone’ for non-native speakers of English: understanding the difference between using formal and informal language in your business communication. There are subtle but important differences between spoken and written English.
The way that you write emails in English to a colleague could be too informal for other types of business correspondence. "Hi" is a friendly but informal way to address someone. It’s fine to use with colleagues and customers when you have an established and ongoing relationship.
In our “WORD WORD WOW” workshop, aimed at boosting your business writing skills, we recommend not to use “Hi” as a salutation in the following situations:
- You don’t know the person and are writing to him or her for the first time
- The person is an upper-level executive
- The person lives in a country where the communication style is formal or conservative
- A serious topic requires a respectful salutation (labor issue, difficult negotiation, important sales pitch…).
When you need a more formal salutation, try these:
- Dear (first Name)
- Dear Mr / Mrs / Ms (this last title is the modern default) last Name
- Hello (first Name), is less familiar than Hi and is a good option.
Punctuation tip: If your company uses British English for business communication, don’t use any punctuation mark or use a comma in the salutation.
- Dear Mr Miller or Dear Mr Miller,
- In American English, use a colon: Dear Mr. Miller:
English speakers also use a lot of slang, idioms and industry buzzwords in their conversations and correspondence. If you want to be adventurous and do the same, just be sure you are using the right word, in the right way! A good way to stay updated on contemporary English expressions is to read articles by native speakers. One site with interesting and usually well-written content is Medium https://medium.com/