“Hi” or “Dear”?

When sending my first e-mail to someone I don’t know, I often wonder which salutation I should use to be proper. Often, it is just about choosing between “Hi” or “Dear”.

Recently, I signed up to a Language Buddy Program at my office. It is a non-official program where employees can improve their foreign language skill by having a scheduled conversation sessions with someone from other offices across the globe. It really helps because it gives us an easy access to native speakers in a safe environment through our company’s communication infrastructure. We simply need an Internet connection. We can even use an app on our smart phone to talk with them.

After signing up, I could get access to a list of colleagues who volunteered their time to be a language buddy. I chose two people from US and I got their e-mail addresses. I needed to introduce myself to them and ask them personally to be my language buddies by sending them e-mails.

That’s one of the situations where I start thinking on choosing a proper greeting.

For me, “Hi” is a too informal and it’s better to be used for people we already know, like friends. However, “Dear” seems to be too intimate. Which one should I use to introduce myself to a colleague from other office, especially when I am about to ask something from them?

My company is actually quite egalitarian that it shouldn’t be a problem at all. We are even allowed to call our Directors with their first name. But e-mail is different. I believe it is always better to make a good first impression, especially with whom we want to make connections.

It turned out that I wasn’t the only one who thought about this.

I searched on Google and I found out that it has been debated over the Internet for quite some time. I found articles on Forbes, Wall Street Journal and BBC around this topic. Two of them quoted opinion from business etiquette expert Lydia Ramsey which led me to open her website. It took only one minute for me to find the answer to my question:

Use “Dear” in your initial correspondence with someone you  have never met

“Dear” is more appropriate because according to her it sets the tone for the relationship and it shows respect. She said, “Email is so impersonal it needs all the help it can get.”

Honestly, for me it is a bit awkward to address a man with “Dear”. But to be safe, it is better to follow her suggestion. We can use “Hi” once we know the person or to address our subordinates. For some people, “Dear” is also a bit old-fashioned and seemingly we are going to see a lot more “Hi” in our in-boxes.

Anyway, when in doubt, just use “Dear”. How about you? Which one do you prefer?