A while back I read an article by the BBC discussing the declining use of “Dear…” in emails. I’ll admit that at the time I felt my blood pressure rise ever so slightly and I felt the stirrings of a weapons grade rant developing but I managed to restrain myself, resolving instead to go off, calm down and not get so worked up about trivial things.
But then just a couple of days ago I received an email which began:
I am contacting you blah blah blah”
Like opening the door of a lit oven, this abrupt opener scorched my eyebrows and left me red-faced and speechless. The last time someone addressed me like this was when a particularly bad-tempered primary school teacher caught me dismantling my desk at the back of class. Regaining my composure, I remembered the BBC article. Standards, it seems, really are slipping. From colleagues who write emails like scolding parents to students who address me like drinking buddies on a booze cruise, nobody it seems, knows how to write an email anymore. Now everyone has their own view of what the various salutations mean but for what it’s worth, here’s how my delicate little brain interprets them:
- Dear …,
I like this. It’s like a hearty and sincere handshake unless, of course, someone uses both your first and last names in which case I immediately assume it’s junk mail sent by a machine and generally delete it without reading. Okay, you don’t know whether I’m a Mr or Ms but better to take a chance and pick one or even go for “Dear Jody” even if you don’t know me. Anything is better than talking to me like those annoying letters banks send out offering loans I don’t need and can’t afford.
- Hi …,
If I don’t know you, this is like calling around to my house while I’m having dinner. A friend will get away with it but a stranger will be the recipient of a tirade of abuse and need to step lively as I release the hounds. If you simply have to use “hi”, at least wait until the second or third email.
- Hey …,
The email equivalent of slapping someone on the backside, especially if there’s an exclamation mark.
What did I do wrong? Why don’t you like me? Why are you so angry? I think I’m going to cry!
- No salutation at all
Walk right up to me and give me a big ‘ol poke in the eye why don’t you?
As old-fashioned as it seems, you really can’t go wrong with “Dear…”.