“Dear all” is one of the most commonly used email starters among formal emails. However, that doesn’t mean it’s an appropriate way to write an email. There are plenty of alternatives out there that it’s better to use, but let’s find out why “dear all” is a no-go.
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Is It Inappropriate To Write “Dear All” In A Work Email?
“Dear all” is formal and appropriate to use in a work email; however, it is considered lazy, and many people won’t read the email further. Using “all” instead of the group you’re referring to (i.e., dear colleagues) implies that the email could be for anyone and is therefore inappropriate.
The Meaning Of “Dear All”
When we use “dear all,” it is seen as a formal greeting and is almost always written in emails (and no other mediums). That’s because emails allow us to send to multiple people at the same time, making the “all” portion of the phrase appropriate.
Dear all means “hello to everyone I’ve sent this email to.” “Dear” is a greeting usually reserved for a loved one or an important person, but the word has since been adapted to be more acceptable in formal situations. “All” means everyone in this context.
Whenever we write “dear all” in an email, we send it to multiple people. You should never send “dear all” if you’re only talking to one person. However, it’s best if you can avoid using “dear all” entirely because most people will not want to read the content.
“Dear all” is seen as lazy. You can easily replace “all” with another word like “colleagues” or “employees” without wasting any more time. This simple addition of a specific group of people makes it more personal and allows everyone to enjoy the email a lot better. It’s more rewarding for the readers to be appreciated as a group, rather than just put together in “all.”
When Is It Fine To Use “Dear All” In An Email?
There are some cases where “dear all” will work, though there are always better alternatives.
If you want to use “dear all” in an email, make sure you’re sending an email to a larger group of people. If you’re only sending it to one, two, or even three people, then you can simply refer to their names. “All” implies there are too many people to name individually.
Let’s look through some examples to show you what we mean by this.
- Dear all,
- I’m writing this email to let you know about the camping trip coming up…
- See you soon,
- Fred Peters
We can use “dear all” in this sense to group our whole family. Again, “dear all” isn’t very personal in this context, and you could easily replace it with “dear family” and get a much better response from it.
- Dear all,
- I’m not happy with the mess I found in the staff kitchen…
- Action this immediately,
- Mr. Chambers
We can also use “dear all” in the workplace (which is where it’s most common to find). Usually, formal speech without personal language is common in work emails. Still, in this case, “dear all” looks like an angrier greeting, especially when we read the content of the email.
To avoid this aggression, starting with something simpler like “dear employees” or “dear team” would have worked much better. The boss could still scold his team for the incident, but at least they wouldn’t have to worry about the connotations of “dear all.”
8 Better Ways To Write “Dear All” In A Formal Email
Okay, so we’ve determined that “dear all” isn’t the best option when we’re writing an email. While formal emails typically don’t need a personal touch, it helps to include them in the introduction and greeting to keep things polite.
If you can address your audience and identify them, you should always choose to do that. It shows that you took the time to write the email out entirely for them and appreciate their attention.
If you simply use “dear all” to group people together, you’re alienating them from the start, and they’ll see you as lazy.
First, let’s look at one of the most common alternatives. We can still use “dear” in this case because we’re addressing people in a kind and formal way. Using a different greeting like “hi” or “hello” doesn’t work as well in a formal setting, so we’ll stick with “dear.”
If you’re working with people, they are known as colleagues. Whether you’re on the same level as them, or you’re their supervisor or even their boss, you can refer to them as colleagues to make sure they understand that you mean well and don’t want to be seen as someone above them.
It’s been brought to my attention that we haven’t had a fundraiser this year…
This is one example of the structure of an email when we use “dear colleagues” to start. Immediately, we are addressing our audience as people who we work with, rather than a lazy “all.”
If you want to keep things even more personal, you can refer to your colleagues or coworkers as a team. A team is when a group of people work well together to achieve a common goal.
It’s common for workplaces to call their workforces a team to keep synergy high and to try and boost morale. Of course, it may not always have the desired effect, but it’s a step in the right direction when you’re trying to keep things more personal and group together the people addressed.
I’ve filled in your overtime for this month, and it’ll be paid later…
See how in this example, we’re using “team” as opposed to “colleagues.” However, both are synonymous with each other; it mostly depends on the name you give to your coworkers in the workplace.
Let’s move across to a school or educational setting for a moment to see how a formal email might be addressed here. First, we’ll take a look at it from the point of view of the teachers or the administration team.
Generally, you’ll address the students in a group email when you want to share important news about either the school or about upcoming things that will affect the students. Saying “students” instead of “all” is a great way to keep them all included.
The annual summer fair is coming up, and we’re looking for volunteers…
We look forward to hearing from you,
School Administration Team
In this example, we’re addressing a group of students. It works especially well when we’re asking for volunteers like we are in this email because indicating the specific group of recipients allows them to be kept a little sweeter before outright rejecting the email.
Faculty is a term we use to refer to a group of teachers in a school. It’s a great way to send out a bulk email to the teachers specifically, rather than using the more general “dear all” greeting that we would otherwise have to use.
Term starts again in three weeks, and we’d like for you to…
Looking forward to seeing what you can do,
As you can see, this is still a formal email; we’re just using “faculty” in place of the typical “all” that you might expect out of an email like this. It works much better this way and keeps all the teachers engaged (hopefully) while they’re reading through the email.
The term “staff” applies to a broad range of people. Staff is the word you’d use to describe a group of people that work in a specific establishment. However, “staff” is still seen as a fairly general word.
Typically, it still works better than “all” when you’re sending an email, but you might want to be careful using something like this. Sometimes, it’s better to be more specific, even if you change “staff” to “team” to make it seem slightly more personal.
I’d love to hear your input on the new plans to open up the west wing…
As you can see, “dear staff” still works nicely as a saying, but it’s not the best option on here. It’s still specific enough to work well in most places of work, but hopefully, you’ve got a slightly more specific group name for the people that work with you.
As a side note, “staff” usually applies to an email when it’s the boss writing it. You can’t call colleagues and coworkers on the same level as you are “staff.”
Now let’s go back to a school situation. This time, we don’t want to message or email the students at the school. Instead, we want to address the parents. Luckily, a name has already been given to this group and works perfectly to address them all.
Rather than worrying about using “all,” which will end up having most of the parents ignore the email (or getting it sent straight to spam), you can instead say “dear parents” to get their attention right away.
Your children have just finished their first week of kindergarten…
We can’t wait to share more news,
Little Munchkins School Board
As you can see, the “parents” inclusion in the email is a great way to differentiate the group.
Dear Club Members
If you’re a member or manager at a club, it might be a case for you to send an email out in bulk to the other members. That’s why it’s important to come up with a good alternative to “all.”
Like everything else we’ve listed so far, it helps that “club members” is already a name that you can refer to them as. Of course, if you can be more specific by including your club name, that would be even better.
Dear Meridian Golf Club Members,
We’ve got a new employee starting in the café
Let us know what you think,
Meridian Golf Club
As you can see, we named the club so we could be even more specific to the recipients of the email. The more specific you can get, the better. Sometimes, you might wish that you could just individually name each person (though we wouldn’t recommend that).
Dear Important Employees
Finally, if you’re struggling to come up with a good idea for your task force or workforce, you can always throw an adjective in front of “team,” “staff,” or “employees.” That way, you can encourage them to be thankful for the email and make them feel important.
Dear important employees,
I have some very important news to share with you…
I patiently await your responses,
Avoid Starting A Professional Email With These Greetings
While “dear all” is a pretty bad greeting message to throw in at the start of your email, that doesn’t mean it’s the only one there is. In fact, there are a few others that we wanted to include so you can make sure you avoid using these in the future.
- Hi all!
Not only are you still grouping everyone up in an impersonal way, but you’re also using “hi” as an informal greeting to try and break the ice. The message falls flat and doesn’t work this way.
Using the greeting “hello” in an email without anything else is considered just as bad as writing “dear all.” It’s bad in two ways. If you send it to a group, you’re not addressing the group in any way. If you’re sending it to one person, you’re not even bothering to write their name. Either way, it shows laziness.
- Greetings, everyone
While “greetings” is seen as a more fun variation of “dear,” it doesn’t work well here because we’re still using “everyone” to group the people together without a specific identifier. If anything, “greetings” looks pretentious now and isn’t good to use.
- To whom it may concern
Starting an email with something like this makes it as impersonal as it can be. We’re not taking any time to figure out who the recipient will be and therefore making everyone feel unwanted when they read it.
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