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The Salutation: Make It As Personal As Possible

An online devotional for writers

A Word From The Word

 I am writing to Timothy, my true son in the faith. (1 Timothy 1:2, NLT

A Word For Writers

The Salutation: an online #devotional for writers with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter #WritingTips #FreelanceWriting #WritingLetters

A salutation is the greeting at the beginning of a letter, note, or email. It begins a conversation.

Copywriter Siegfried Vogele’s famed eye tracking studies showed that readers conduct a quick skim of a business letter before reading it. First, the reader finds the sender’s name (in the return address block or signature). Then, the reader scans the letter’s salutation (“does the sender know my name?”)  

That’s why at the start of a letter it’s best to avoid a generic, “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir/Madam.” All-purpose openings are not personal. 

Instead, welcome the specific individual or group to whom you’re writing, whether the letter is formal (“Dear Dr. Smith”) or casual (“Hey, Joe.”) Personalizing a letter catches the reader’s attention. 

You may need to do some detective work to find out the specific name of your addressee, but it’s well worth your effort. If a job posting doesn’t list the name of the human resource officer, with a bit of digging, you may find out the contact person’s name – and you discover that she attended the same college as you did. If you’re the human resource officer, which of these salutations grabs you the most and encourages you to pursue a conversation with a candidate?

     To Whom It May Concern:
     I’m writing to apply for …

     Dear Ms. Robinson:
     You and I are both alumni of University X, which led me to contact you directly about …

When the Apostle Paul wrote letters to churches and to individuals, he always personalized the salutation. He opened 1 Timothy with these words:  “To Timothy, my true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2, NLT). Paul acknowledged his deep, personal relationship with Timothy.

Those words would give me a desire to please my mentor. The letter is personalized to speak to the reader’s soul.

A Wise Word

A letter’s salutation is an opportunity to personalize your content.

A Word To Pray

Gracious Father,

You’ve personalized your Book to us. Show me how to personalize the letters I write in order to start fruitful, healthy discussions with my readers.

In Jesus’s name, Amen.


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