Mastering French politeness is not easy. We are spoiled for choice, and some formulas can seem endless and difficult to understand to a non-French speaker.
It is important not to confuse them, especially if you are addressing a recruiter or a supervisor. This article will guide you through the minefield of e-mail greetings and show you how to use them wisely.
“Cordialement” is fine, right ?
As you may have noticed, "cordialement" this is by far the most common form of politeness in France. However, as we will see below, it is not adapted to all situations.
"Cordialement" literally translates as "cordially" or "warmly". Although "cordially" is appropriate at the end of an e-mail written in English, it is an obsolete formula that does not correspond to the French usage of "cordialement". It is actually equivalent to "best/warm/kind regards"; a relatively neutral formula, to be used between colleagues, for a familiar client or an unknown person whose position does not require too much formality. You can add a little warmth with "bien cordialement".
As I said above, we have plenty of choices, so don't hesitate to stand out by choosing "sincèrement" or "cordiales salutations" for example. If you know the person, personalize your e-mail by closing it with "à bientôt"or "au plaisir" ("speak soon"), "bonne journée"or "en vous souhaitant une excellente fin de semaine", which can even have an exclamation mark, just like "catch you then! "or "have a good one!
In a more formal context, think of formulas such as "avec ma sincère considération", "je vous prie d’agréer mes meilleures salutations" or "je vous prie de croire à mes sentiments cordiaux et respectueux"; translated by "respectfully yours" in English, ideal for addressing a superior or a notable person.
Apply for a job
In English, when you send an application by e-mail, you can be satisfied with a succinct "yours sincerely/faithfully". This is not the case in the language of Molière...
Here is an example of a polite way to address a recruiter: "Me tenant à disposition pour un entretien à la date qui vous conviendra, je vous prie d’agréer, Madame Durant, l’expression de ma considération distinguée. (I am at your disposal for an interview at your convenience. Please accept, Mrs. Durant, the expression of my distinguished consideration.)"
These classic (and endless!) phrases are essential and will demonstrate your respect for procedures. They are broken down into three parts:
- – En espérant que ma candidature retiendra votre attention, je vous prie d’agréer (Hoping that my application will be of interest to you, I would like to thank you for)
– Me tenant à disposition pour un entretien à la date qui vous conviendra, je vous prie d’agréer,…(I am at your disposal for an interview at your convenience.)
– Désireux(se) de vous démontrer ma motivation, je vous prie de recevoir (I would like to show you my motivation, please receive, in writing, a copy of my)
- - Madam,...
- Dear Sir or Madam...
- Mr. Director,...
- Mrs. Durant,...
- – L’expression de mes sincères salutations. (Yours sincerely)
– L’expression de ma considération distinguée. (The expression of my distinguished consideration.)
NB: you must address your interlocutor exactly the same way at the beginning and at the end of your e-mail. The paragraph on the different e-mail openings will tell you more about the formulas to adopt.
"Vous remerciant par avance pour…" is the equivalent of "thanks in advance" and is a good way to call for action while expressing gratitude.
To say thank you, simply end your e-mail with “avec mes remerciements”, “avec tous mes remerciements”, “avec mes sincères remerciements”.
Get an answer
Using the right wording at the end of an email is a great way to solicit a response while remaining courteous.
Write "dans l’attente de votre réponse, je vous prie d’agréer mes meilleures salutations" Subtle, but effective. The English equivalent "I look forward to hearing from you" is just as effective, but much less subtle; a direct translation of this formula would risk offending a French interlocutor.
Friends and family
It goes without saying that formulas such as "xoxo", "love" or "take care" in English are to be avoided in a professional context; in the same way, “bisous”, “grosses bises”, “amitiés”, “bien à toi” are to be reserved for your loved ones.
Just as in English, it is possible to individualize your greetings. For example, "musicalement" or "sportivement vôtre" will make you stand out from the crowd.
And to begin with?
When opening an e-mail, to address a work colleague or a person with whom you have an ongoing relationship, "Bonjour Martin" is quite appropriate. For close friends and family, you can allow yourself to be familiar with "salut" or "coucou", which translate into "hi".
If it is a superior, it is advisable to use "dear colleague".
In formal situations such as an application, if the recruiter is unknown, use "Madame, Monsieur" (Be careful! Madame always before Monsieur). However, if you know their name, position or gender, use them accompanied by the adjective "cher(chère)", especially not "bonjour", which is considered too familiar in this context. For example: “Cher Monsieur Dupont/Chère Madame la Directrice/Cher Monsieur”.