Suppose my boss's name is John Smith and in person I address him as "John". Is it better to start the email saying

Hi Mr. Smith

or simply

Hi John

I know it's somewhat minor, but I want to avoid being too informal. I appreciate any tips or advice.

  • 17
    It might help others answer your question if you include more details: culture, your position, your boss's position, your relationship with your boss, etc.
    – Nicole
    Jun 3, 2012 at 22:55
  • 3
    TBH, anybody expecting me to call them Mr Smith had better be calling me Mr Trinder...
    – Matt
    Mar 27, 2014 at 0:15
  • 2
    The answer to this will vary wildly according to any number of factors about which you've given us precisely zero information. Oct 10, 2014 at 22:30

5 Answers 5


As you use "John" in person I'd go with that in the e-mail.

The only exception I consider making is if the e-mail is a formal one - something as serious as resigning or an official complaint - then I'd use "Mr. Smith".

For anything else - holiday requests etc. stick with the less formal greeting.

  • 1
    Exactly...refer to them like you would in person/on the phone.
    – Rarity
    Jun 4, 2012 at 0:38

It depends entirely on your boss. I have no problem when my staff do that, but I have worked for people who would not be happy.

You should probably ask your boss directly what they would prefer, and probably even what their advice is for how to handle this in future. (They are, after all, way more expert than you in how your industry works.)


If you want the greeting to be more formal, while not very formal, you should go with "Dear" instead of "Hi" because this give more respect to the recipient, implying your subordinate-boss relationship.

Usually, it is enough to use the First name otherwise it would be too formal and implies that you two barely know each other - which is not the case here.

And you can say "Hi" to any co-worker in the same level with you.

I have been addressing my boss in email like this for 2 years without problem.

  • In some cultures, "Dear" seems overly familiar for business correspondence.
    – arp
    Sep 27, 2022 at 18:03

It depends on the expectations of the individual boss, expectations as adjusted by the company culture and the boss's personality. If in doubt, the simplest and most direct way to find out the answer is to grab some of your co-workers and ask them how they address your boss. This is an instance where guessing is complicated but finding out is simple. When guessing is complicated and finding out is easy and straightforward, just find out.

Having said that, in my official capacities, I plead guilty to dispensing with niceties because of the nature of my job and the nature of the firm's business - "Server XXXX is down and out. Did you have something to do with it?" The reason is obvious, a potentially bad situation is developing and we need to get it under control. Now.


When in doubt, do nowt.

Most of the time you can just flow straight into the email.When a greeting is required, usually just saying "Hi" and ending with "regards" will suffice as this is quite commonplace.

Other than that it depends on your relationship with this person. If you have never talked to them then you should always err on the side of caution and be formal and say Mr or Mrs/Miss/Ms.. so that would be

"Hi Mrs Benjamin." if you don't know her, or "Hi Flo" if you do.

Why act in these ways?

The email is already addressed to the recipient. Each email sent, one to one, the recipient is automatically assigned to be the reader. This is the departure from hand written letters. It is obvious that the email is from the sender and the recipient is a given.

This is one of the unique features of emails being immediate asynchronous communication that is personal via a personal email account. A greeting is used as a vehicle to flow into the actual content of the email.

The actual statement being made, the headers and footers (hi, regards) are just a way of starting and ending the email, and provided these are polite there isn't much thought given to them.

  • 1
    Hi, this answer doesn't really explain why this course of action is good, answers say what to do, great answers say why you should do it! Hope this helps in the future!
    – user5305
    Mar 25, 2014 at 21:50
  • 1
    Hi @WeNeedAnswers, I do think that some of the content you have here is really good, I put a quick edit on it to format it a little to make it easier to read and to make it flow a little better.Putting any animosity aside are you happy that this edit still reflects the information you wanted to convey?
    – user5305
    Mar 27, 2014 at 11:33

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .