Whether writing business emails, personal letters, or other correspondence, it can sometimes be tricky to decide how to open your letters. So, how about the address “Dear All”? Is this grammatically correct, and, if so, when is it appropriate to use it?
Using “Dear All” as a salutation at the beginning of an email, letter, or another form of communication is grammatically correct since “all” is an indefinite pronoun in this construction. In professional communication, you may want to consider selecting an alternative that sounds slightly more personal, such as “Dear Colleagues.”
Picking the right salutation can be tricky. Read on to learn more about the meaning and best use of “Dear All” and what substitutes we might use.
What Does “Dear All” Mean?
The salutation “Dear All” includes an adjective (“dear”) as well as the indefinite pronoun “all.” Using this salutation addresses your letter to the total number of a particular collection of people.
For this reason, you will need to make sure you are using this salutation in contexts where the group to whom “all” refers is clear to everyone.
“All” as an Indefinite Pronoun
In the construction, “Dear All,” “all” is an indefinite pronoun (source). Indefinite pronouns take the place of nouns, but they do not have a specific referent in the way that definite pronouns do.
“All,” when we use it as an indefinite pronoun, can sometimes refer to all people, such as in the sentence “All believe in something.” Still, more commonly, we would use the word “people” after “all” in these cases.
“All” as an indefinite pronoun can also refer to everyone within a particular group, but we must determine this based on the context. For example, in a particular meeting, we could say that someone “gave equal attention to all.” This, of course, refers to everyone in the meeting rather than everyone in the room.
When we use it in an email or other form of digital communication, it is simple for the recipients to understand who the “all” refers to — the group is limited to those included in the “To” line. However, in letters and some other forms of communication, you may need to be more intentional.
A salutation includes a greeting or adjective followed by a word (noun or pronoun) labeling the person or people you address. For this reason, the adjective “Dear” paired with the indefinite pronoun “all” is an entirely acceptable salutation from a grammatical standpoint.
How Do You Use “Dear All”?
Recipients of an individual piece of correspondence addressed to “all” may be confused if they are not unaware of the others who have received the same letter, email, etc. Keep this in mind when selecting a salutation.
A smaller communication with a more casual tone, such as a brief email to a small team, might be an appropriate place for the salutation “Dear All.” In contrast, a corporate letter or email to a larger group may be less suitable.
Because of the indefinite nature of the pronoun “all,” it can come off as impersonal or even rude in certain contexts. If you are a boss writing an email to your reports, for example, selecting the salutation “Dear All” can seem to convey an impersonal and distant tone that can be distasteful.
Instead, you may consider selecting a noun that more specifically identifies those who are receiving the letter, such as “team,” “crew,” “[business name] family,” and the like.
Using “Dear All” in a Full Sentence
The phrase “dear all” can function in some cases other than as a salutation as well. Operating in the same way grammatically — an adjective and an impersonal pronoun — “dear all” can work in a regular English sentence too.
This is by far the most common in direct address, such as in written dialogue.
Here are a few examples of the phrase “dear all” used correctly in a full sentence:
- “Dear all,” said Rhonda to the crowd, “It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for!”
- We are hoping, dear all, that you have had a good evening.
When Can You Use “Dear All”?
The grammatically-correct salutation “Dear All” is acceptable in many contexts. This salutation works best when it begins one of the following.
First, you can use it at the beginning of a piece of casual communication. Next, you could use it as informal business communication, such as a brief email memo, to a small group of people.
Finally, we might use it as a formal piece of communication where the author intends a distant tone, or it is acceptable, and each addressee is sufficiently clear on the whole audience of the letter.
In a casual or informal context, a comma at the end of “Dear All” is usually best, while in the more formal and impersonal context, you may select either a colon or a comma.
In What Context Can You Use “Dear All”?
It is also worth noting that this salutation is probably most appropriate in an email or other digital communication format in which each person addressed can see and clearly understand who the indefinite pronoun “all” is referring to.
If it begins a letter that group members receive individually, the reader will have much less context for the group that “all” includes. For this reason, this salutation is more common in emails than in paper letters.
When Not to Use “Dear All”
There are times when it is best to choose a salutation other than “Dear All.” Some of these times include addressing only one or two people, in a letter going out to individuals, or when you want to sound personal or invested.
When Addressing Only One or Two People
It is probably evident that the salutation “Dear All” is inappropriate (or inaccurate) when your communication only goes out to one person. If an email or other message only has one or two recipients, find a better term than “all” with which to address them.
In a Letter Going Out to Individuals
Even if you are sending a mass mailing to a large group of people, each individual will receive only a singular copy of the letter. For this reason, “Dear All” is a less effective salutation in paper letters than in emails, where all recipients are in a “group” together.
For this reason, it is generally best to steer clear of “Dear All” as a salutation at the beginning of paper letters.
When You Want to Sound Personal or Invested
The salutation “Dear All” can come off as somewhat cold and distant in specific settings. In a professional environment, especially if you are a boss or director talking to subordinates, you may want to skip this impersonal greeting to avoid appearing to “talking down to” those you are addressing.
What Can You Use Instead of “Dear All”?
If you feel that “Dear All” is not appropriate for a particular piece of correspondence and are seeking some alternatives, we suggest that you either use another greeting with “all” or replace “all” with something more personal. Here are some suggestions.
Use Another Greeting With “All”
If “Dear All” sounds wrong, one alternative you can try is replacing the word “Dear” with another word or phrase of greeting. While “Dear All” is grammatically correct, a more personal greeting rather than the adjective “dear” may make it sound less distant and impersonal.
A few alternate greetings to try include “good morning,” “good evening,” “greetings,” or even “hello.” Remember that if a greeting precedes the word “all” rather than an adjective like “dear,” it is grammatically correct to place a comma after the greeting (source).
Here are a few examples of alternate greetings used with “all”:
- Good Morning, All,
- Hello, All,
- Good Evening, All,
- Greetings, All,
Replace “All” With a More Personal Term
Another way to make this salutation sound more personal and appropriate for business communication is to replace the impersonal pronoun “all” with a word that more directly identifies the people you are addressing.
This word will depend on who you are writing the communication to, but a term like “team,” “colleagues,” “friends,” coworkers,” or the like may be appropriate.
Remember that if you use the adjective “dear” with a noun as your salutation, there should be no comma between “dear” and the word or words that follow. Instead, you should use punctuation (a comma or colon) at the end of the salutation as usual.
Here are some examples of alternate greetings to use with “dear” that may be more appropriate in a business setting:
- Dear Team,
- Dear Coworkers:
- Dear [Company Name] Employees:
- Dear Friends,
- Dear Colleagues,
Is It Correct to Say “Dear Team”?
Like “Dear All,” the salutation “Dear Team” is grammatically correct and perfectly acceptable to use as a salutation in the right settings.
In “Dear Team,” the adjective “dear” precedes the noun “team,” which you should follow with a comma or, in some professional cases, a colon. You should never place a comma between “dear” and “team” and never follow “Dear Team” with an exclamation point.
As with “Dear All,” keep in mind that “Dear Team” addresses a group, so you should not use it when contacting just one individual.
The salutation “Dear Team” may be appropriate in business settings, whether you are a boss contacting subordinates or a member of a team contacting other members of the team.
If you are a member of the team, however, you may want to avoid using this term in communication that includes your boss, as “Team” is a term that implies camaraderie and equality (source).
Grammar Rules for Greetings and Salutations
A “salutation,” or the address to a letter, email, or other forms of written communication, follows certain grammar rules, as well as some standard guidelines.
Typically, a salutation includes two parts: an adjective or a word of greeting (such as “Dear” or “Hello”), followed by the name or a label for the person or group of people you are addressing (such as “Mary” or “Friends”) (source).
Punctuation in Salutations
A comma or a colon should usually follow a salutation. A comma is more typical in casual or personal correspondence, while a colon is the most formal of the three and is appropriate for some business correspondence.
However, many business emails may not be so formal as to require a colon, and, in these cases, a comma is appropriate.
In some forms of correspondence, usually informal, an exclamation point may be appropriate at the end of a salutation. However, note that, as an exclamation point is an end mark, it must come after a salutation that includes a greeting rather than an adjective at the beginning.
In addition, A salutation that ends in an exclamation point, an interjection, must be able to stand alone as a complete sentence.
For example, the salutation “Good Morning, Susan!” is correct, but we must follow the salutation “Dear Susan” with either a comma or a colon.
Also, note that some salutations require a comma in the middle of the salutation and punctuation at the end. For example, we should never follow adjectives like “dear” or “beloved” with a comma or any other punctuation.
However, if your salutation begins with a direct greeting (such as “good morning,” “greetings,” etc.), you should insert a comma between that greeting and the name.
The one exception to this is in some informal settings, especially with “hello” and “hi,” as informal usage often omits the comma between these words and the name.
So if you are writing an informal or casual letter, email, or other forms of correspondence, you may decide to remove the comma after the initial greeting, though punctuation should always come at the end of the salutation.
However, keep in mind that this is not technically correct, and you should not use it for formal communication.
Capitalization in Salutations
As in titles, you should capitalize the first and last words and any nouns or main words in a salutation. However, article adjectives and prepositions of less than four letters — when they are not the first or last word — do not need capitalization (source).
Below are some examples of salutations formatted correctly in different types of correspondence.
Personal: A comma or an exclamation point is appropriate following the salutation in a personal letter or some other form of correspondence. This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
- Dear All,
- Dear Anna,
- Greetings, Friends!
- Hi Kate, (informal communications)
- Hello, Kate, (formal and technically correct)
- Good Afternoon to My Dear Friend,
- Hi, Bill!
- Dear All:
- Dear Colleagues:
- Good Morning, Mr. Jones,
- Dear Team:
For more on matters of formality, make sure you read “How to Properly Address a Ph.D.”
While “Dear All” may be too impersonal to use in some contexts, it is grammatically correct and a perfectly acceptable salutation in many cases.
If you are looking for a more personal salutation, remember that it may help to replace either “dear” or “all” with a more personal word.