I'm sending an application to a freelance software developer by email. My goal is to work for free in my spare time (not quite an internship, but basically an internship). I have a completed, and appropriate, resume, however I'm stuck with one problem: I can't find their last name anywhere!

I have found their first name is Matt, but I hardly think "Matt:" is an appropriate way to start an introductory email, since we're hardly on a first name basis.

How do I address this email without their last name yet retain the formality of a business introduction? I have no other contact avenue besides email.

  • 1
    I've modified the question a bit to make it more clear in light of that (as well as changed tags, this isn't a question necessarily specific for an internship application). – enderland Apr 14 '13 at 20:28
  • Doesn't their e-mail address give a clue to their name? – ChrisF Apr 14 '13 at 20:28
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    @ChrisF No, it doesn't, otherwise I wouldn't have asked :P – user8712 Apr 14 '13 at 20:29
  • @enderland Hm, thanks! Not too familiar with the tags for Workplace yet. – user8712 Apr 14 '13 at 20:30
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    It sounds like Matt has chosen to publicize his first name but not his last name. If so, that suggests that he wouldn't have a problem being addressed as "Matt". – Keith Thompson Feb 6 '14 at 1:33

You do not need to start an email with a salutation. Just start writing. 99% of the emails I receive professionally have no salutation.

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    My experience (in manufacturing) is that initial emails have a salutation about 85% of the time, even if it's just "Hello". This may vary by profession. In subsequent emails in a chain, some people always drop the salutation and others never do. I try to remember how each person writes and match that in my own behavior. It's a little thing for them, but it's a little thing for me, too, and if respecting their preferred behavior gives a bump to their positive impression of working with me maybe that will tip things in my favor in any ambiguous decision. – Lyrl Jul 18 '16 at 15:21

When I don't know to whom I'm writing, or I have only a first name and want to be more formal, I use "Hello" as the salutation rather than just diving in. Another option in your case, since you have a first name with unambiguous gender, is "Dear Sir", though in my experience that's better suited to executives, business people, and seniors; most software developers I know would find that unusual and overly formal, especially if they're young.


For me a name would suffice. Something like

Dear Matt,

I am writting in regards to the offer bla bla bla...

Best Regards,

Most of the time I write to ambiguous emails, where name or gender is not obvious, in which case I would start off with

To Whom it May Concern,

blah blah blah.

Best Regards,

Using Dear Sir / Madam is a bit risky as I deal with people who have names like Jackie, Alex, Jess, etc.


I've learned in school starting with "Dear Sir or Madam" but I think that's only appropiate if it should be considered formal.

  • You can never go wrong with formal. – Donald Jun 19 '14 at 14:32

I would go with "Good Morning,"

Or afternoon, or evening, whenever you write it.

I may be "Old School," but initial emails should be written as informal business letters. However, my grandmother was an English teacher, and drilled proper communications etiquette into us. I'm probably more of a stickler than most.

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