San, Sama, Sensei – How to Address People in Japanese Emails
San, Chan, Kun, Sama… – Yes, there are many ways to address people in Japanese and it can be quite confusing which title to use on what occasions.
When it comes to writing emails, a lot of other questions may arise.
- Can I use “San” in emails?
- How should I address my teacher?
- What if I don’t know the name of the person in charge?
This article gives you the ultimate guide on how to address people or companies in Japanese emails.
Table of Contents
Always Use “Sama” Instead of “San”
First thing first, さん is not quite accepted in emails – it is always safer to use 様.
様 is normally put after a full name or a last name. Though calling someone with their first name followed by 様 is common in verbal communication, we almost never address people with their first name in written communication.
How to Address People in Japanese Emails
The followings are the variations of how to address people to start your email.
The Most Basic Format
The most basic format will look like this:
- トウキョウ株式会社 営業部 部長 田中太郎様
Company + Department + Job Title + Name
If you are not sure which department the recipient belongs to or what job title he/she holds, you can omit those information.
To People Within Your Company
If you are writing internally, you can put their job title after their name instead of 様.
If you are emailing someone outside of your company, this exception does not apply – you should stick to the basic format.
- 営業部 田中部長
- 営業部 部長 田中太郎様
I mentioned that 様 is the best choice to address anyone, but there is one exception. Whoever people call 先生（teacher）or 教授（professor）prefer to be addressed the same way in writings. This includes teachers, professors, doctors and lawyers.
- オオサカ日本語学校 田中太郎先生
- オオサカ大学 田中太郎教授
To Multiple Recipients
There may be times when you are addressing multiple people. All you need to remember here is to write the name of whoever has a higher ranking first.
- トウキョウ株式会社 営業部
To Whom It May Concern
Probably not many people write “To whom it may concern” in English anymore.
Anyways, if you don’t know the name of the person in charge, you can address him/her as 担当者様, which literally means “the person in charge”.
- トウキョウ株式会社 営業部 担当者様
- トウキョウ株式会社 採用担当者様
When you are not writing to a specific person but rather addressing the whole company, school or department, you can put 御中 instead of 様.
- トウキョウ株式会社 営業部御中
Attention to Each and All
Let’s say you have multiple recipients – maybe not two or three, but more than five. You cannot specify everyone’s name but still want every one of them to pay attention. In this scenario, we use 各位 instead of 様. While other titles come after the name of the person or company, 各位 can be used independently.
- トウキョウ株式会社 営業部 担当者各位
- トウキョウ株式会社 営業部 各位
Let’s not be redundant.
様, 御中 and 各位 are all honorific title but have different roles.
- 様 = for people’s name
- 御中 = for a company’s name
- 各位 = for multiple, anonymous recipients
Thus they can never be used together like this:
Q: Should I address people with their full name or last name?
A: When you are writing to someone for the first time, try to address them with their full name. From the second exchange onwards, we normally switch to last names.
Q: How about when I mention their name in the main message?
A: You can call them with their last name followed by the appropriate title.
Q: Is there anything to keep in mind when using Cc?
A: We specify each recipient’s name when we use Cc.
- オオサカ株式会社 田中様
- オオサカ株式会社 田中様
*弊社=humble way to say “my company”
Q: How about when I use Bcc?
When we use Bcc, we add a line like this to be polite:
This email is sent using Bcc.
Let’s Start Writing Emails in Japanese!
As an English learner, I understand the struggles of writing emails in a foreign language. No one likes to be misunderstood or even offend others against our intention.
We always feel thankful when we receive emails in Japanese and we do not expect perfectly written emails.
However, writing professional emails that follow the etiquette rules will result in smooth communication – which means more opportunities or more business!
If you have any questions or thoughts about this subject, please feel free to leave a comment below.
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