Salutation and closing in a German business letter


Most textbooks simply tell you that in formal occasions, use the salutations “Sehr geehrte/Sehr geehrter”, and in informal context, “Liebe/Lieber”. But when is it formal and when could it be less formal in a business context? Here we will try to give you a better feel for it.

However, the table is only a starting point. Every company has its own culture – a large corporate law firm will have different expectations than a small start-up. Lean on the formal side on the first few weeks and adjust as you observe how your colleagues interact.

Salutations and Closing in different contexts

Salutation Closing and Signature Example situations
Sehr geehrte Frau Dr. Groß (Sehr geehrter Herr Dr. Groß)

Mit freundlichen Grüßen

Franziska Lenz
When you are emailing a potential business partner for the first time, or during the first few exchanges, before the other side reply more casually.
Sehr geehrte Frau Groß (Sehr geehrter Herr Groß)

Mit freundlichen Grüßen

Franziska Lenz
1) When you are emailing the boss of your boss, whom you might have met occasionally but don’t work together often.

2) When you are emailing an internal colleague for the first time.
Liebe Frau Mittelmeier (Lieber Herr Mittelmeier), Hallo/Guten Morgen/Guten Tag Frau Mittelmeier (Herr Mittelmeier)

Mostly "Sie", but occasionally "du"
Mit freundlichen Grüßen/
Viele Grüße/
Liebe Grüße/
Herzliche Grüße

Bis nächsten Mittwoch (e.g. if a meeting is scheduled on next Wednesday)

Franziska Lenz
1) When you are emailing your boss or external client/partner who you interact often and have a good understanding with.

2) When you are emailing a colleague of the same level but in a different department who you don’t interact often, such as the person responsible for you in your HR department.
Liebe Anna (Lieber Anton), Hallo Bettina (Bernd)

Viele Grüße (or VG)/
Liebe Grüße (or LG)/
Schönes Wochenende (on Fridays)/
Bis bald

When you are emailing a close colleague of the same level and who you interact very frequently. If you often have lunch together and share jokes, he/she will most likely be in this category.

You could start abbreviating your closing.
Liebe Anna (Lieber Anton), Hallo Bettina (Bernd)


When you are really close with your colleagues, you can even abbreviate your name. But do this only if you really are close, at the same level, and exchanging short emails multiple times a day. Otherwise your boss or distant colleagues may feel a hint of disrespect.

When addressing to or signing off for multiple people

If you are addressing multiple people at the same time, the highest-ranking person is addressed first. If they are both of equal level in the hierarchy, then ladies are addressed first. It is expected that you repeat the salutation for each person. For example:

Liebe Frau Groß, lieber Herr Mittelmeier, lieber Herr Klein,

When you are signing off on behalf of multiple people (such as your teammates), then your name come last.

Markus, Julia, and YOUR-NAME

The dynamics of the formalities

After the first few email exchanges, you may notice the other party will begin to loosen up. For example, if you emailed your internal colleague in another department who is one level above you in hierachy, and gave her initially the formal salutation “Sehr geehrte Frau Groß”, and she replied with “Liebe Frau Brown”, you could probably simply write “Liebe Frau Groß” in your next reply, especially if she used “Viele Grüße” instead of the more formal “Mit freundlichen Grüßen”. Again, the expectations of when to become more casual varies from firm to firm and even person to person! If in doubt, lean on the formal side first.

Other things to watch out for

Pay attention to the gender of your recipient and use the corresponding Deklination. If you are unsure, simply search for images in your favorite search engine of the recipient’s first name and see the photos associated with that.

Make sure you spell the names correctly too; there are, for example, many forms of “Schmidt” (Schmidts, Schmitt, Schmid, etc.) and you want to get it perfect the first time and every time.

"Sie" and "Ihr" (e.g. "vielen Dank für Ihre Rückmeldung") are always written capitalized. You may sometimes still see 'Du' and 'Dein' capitalized, but this is not mandatory.

After the salutation (“Lieber Frau Groß,”) the first sentence is considered an extension of the sentence and thus continues with a lower case.
In “Viele Grüße”, “Grüße” is plural Nominativ, where as in “Mit frendlichen Grüßen”, it is plural Dativ, thus the extra “n” in the end.

Also, unlike in English, there is also no comma after the closing.

Viele Grüße

Sometimes, the closing can be combined with other statements, such as “Vielen Dank und viele Grüße.” And you may see a wide range of greetings if you have a good relationship. Often people may state their location if they are travelling, such as “Grüße aus New York”.

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