My mother (let's call her Anna Jones) and I work as volunteers for a non profit organization, and I'm never sure how I should address her in work emails. When I write emails to my mother I use "Dear Mom". When I write emails to Bob Smith I use "Dear Mr. Smith". But what I use when addressing both in a single email? The two options are:

  1. Dear Mom and Mr. Smith
  2. Dear Mrs. Jones and Mr. Smith

But they both seem a bit awkward to me. What's the proper etiquette? Thanks in advance for your replies.

  • If you normally address your mother in a formal situation as "Mom" then I don't think you should change that just because you happen to write the email to her and another colleague. Another option is to address family members consistently like business colleagues, e.g. call your mom "Mrs. Jones" and have your mom call you "Mr. Jones" while speaking formally. In that case, what to write in the email becomes obvious. – Brandin Jun 14 '15 at 8:31
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    Why are you using salutations in emails? They are not necessary. – HLGEM Jun 15 '15 at 14:59
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    @HLGEM What do you write on the first line of an email? I hate it when people write emails to me as if it were an sms text message. Begin with some kind of salutation – Brandin Jun 15 '15 at 22:17
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    If there is more than 2 people, sometimes you can avoid the situation altogether with "Dear all" or "Dear colleagues" etc. Where I work, even "Hi everyone" is perfectly accepted. – Dhara Feb 20 '16 at 21:57
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    I agree with @HLGEM. The "To" field of an e-mail header does the practical function of the salutation in a paper letter. You have already said who you are writing to. Why repeat it? – Patricia Shanahan Apr 13 '16 at 16:39

Short answer: Refer to her as everyone else would.

In a professional environment, you should address her as you would any other person, or indeed, how anyone else in that same environment would address her. Think about it this way: in that context she is not your mom, she is a fellow volunteer.

So if you address other people by their first name, do the same. If you address them as say "Mr Smith", then you should call your mom "Mrs Jones".

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    I would do this especially since the e-mail is addressed to multiple people. – Formagella Jun 14 '15 at 13:12
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    I don't use salutations in any of my emails, so I don't get to experience the kind of headaches you are getting :) – Vietnhi Phuvan Jun 14 '15 at 14:25
  • @VietnhiPhuvan If I get called "Ms. S" then I know I am probably in trouble! :) – Jane S Jun 14 '15 at 21:32
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    My father once worked for the same group I did (we'd brought him in as a short-term consultant) and we all found it easiest if he was just Firstname, same as the rest of us. Everybody knew he was my father but I never called him "Dad" in a work setting because it felt weird to everybody involved. Calling him by his first name was unusual for me, but the workplace is about everybody. – Monica Cellio Jun 14 '15 at 22:51

I've never been in this situation, but my first reaction if I was would be:

If writing an email that was only going to my mother, i.e. no one else on the "to" or "cc" list, I'd call her "mom". Likewise, in casual conversations at the office, I'd call her "mom".

If writing an email that is going to multiple people, I would address her the same as I do other people in the organization: "Sally" or "Mrs Jones" or whatever. It would just seem -- discordant -- to me to address something to, "Mr Harvey Smith, Director of Marketing; Mrs Jane Miller, Vice President of Human Resources; and Mom". Also, especially if it's a big organization, others may not know your relationship, and they would have no idea who "mom" is.

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You could try "Mrs. Jones (aka Mom...)", and then use Mrs Jones in the rest of the message. You acknowledge the relationship, to her and to the people who know, and you introduce the relationship to people who don't. On top of this you are establishing the professional nature of the communication to all parties addressed.

A smiley would also work in place of the ellipses if that's more your style, or even an exclamation point.

I admit that it's cute, but sometimes cute works.

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