Rumors about the Death of the Word “Dear”

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“The times they are a-changin” as Bob Dylan so aptly pointed out in 1964.  No where does it seem more obvious than in the world of etiquette.  The time and effort that people used to spend on being courteous and respectful has diminished.  We value informality more than formality.  Take, for example, the use of “dear” as a salutation in email.

I was quoted in the Wall Street Journal today in an article titled Hey, Folks: Here’s a Digital Requiem for a Dearly Departed Salutation by Dionne Searcy addressing this topic.  The range of opinions was extensive. My position was clear, and I am sticking to it.  People who don’t start their initial business communication with “dear” lack polish and come across as abrupt. The use of “dear” in no way suggests intimacy in e-mail. On the contrary, it shows respect and professionalism. Be assured that I am not suggesting it is never appropriate to use less formal greetings such as “Hi”, “Hey,” or “Hello.”

Here are five tips to keep in mind when choosing which salutation to use:

  1. In an initial business communication always use “dear” and address your client by title and last name.
  2. Let the client take the lead on how formal or informal your communication is.
  3. As the client relationship becomes less formal, so should your salutation.
  4. When corresponding with international clients, always use a formal salutation and tone.
  5. When emailing family and friends, the choice is yours.

Email is fast and efficient, but it is also impersonal.  It needs all the help it can get if you want to use it to build relationships.  If your goal is to be recognized as a professional, then try adding the polish that builds profits.

Those are my thoughts, dear reader.

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Hire Lydia to work with your staff to improve customer service and employee relations through the use of those priceless and often over-looked soft skills called manners. Lydia is the “unstuffy” business etiquette expert who helps individuals and organizations add the polish that builds profits. We’re talking about your bottom line here.

Since 1996, countless people have benefited from her wisdom through keynotes, seminars and conference breakout sessions.  Her Southern charm and sense of humor have made her a sought-after speaker and consultant.

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5 thoughts on “Rumors about the Death of the Word “Dear”

  1. Rosemarie Rossetti

    Thank you Lydia for bringing this salutation to my attention! I have been looking at all my incoming email and seldom see “Dear..” used. I am purposely using “Dear…” in my outgoing email now where before I used “Hi…” You are THE authority as far as I’m concerned when it comes to etiquette.
    Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D.

  2. Dale C.

    Everyone is free to use the salutation or the slang, but if we’re trying to make a good impression we’ll want to choose our words according to “their” expectations.
    I stick with Lydia’s advice and not the advice of a “former trucker” and not
    the advice of one who tells me I’ll save time by not typing “dear” … what’s
    he thinking ??? Must be a very slow one finger keyboarder!

  3. Bonnie Davis

    It seems to me that our culture has gotten too casual and the most basic manners are considered outdated. Lydia reminds us that we can impress our potential and current clients by adapting some of those more formal manners in the beginning of our relationship.

  4. Lydia Ramsey

    Janice, thank you for your support. I think you are absolutely right that some of us have been tweeting too much.


    The English language is a wonderful thing–words can have multiple or nuanced meanings. To assume that “dear” is simply a formal salutation, and an outdated one at that, tells me that some of us have been tweeting a little too much. Kudos to you, Lydia, for keeping the word in our written correspondence!


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