In the event you are not aware of it, there is a debate going on regarding the proper salutation to use for your email communication. It is not quite on the same level as the political debates, but like Hurricane Isaac, it is growing in intensity and covering an ever widening area.
Earlier this year I was contacted by the Wall Street Journal for an article being written by Dionne Searcey titled “Hey, Folks: Here’s a Digital Requiem For a Dearly Departed Salutation.” Last week a reporter from Forbes.com, Susan Adams, called to ask my opinion on the use of “hi” vs. “dear” as an email greeting. From the number of comments and the diverse responses posted on her article, “Hi? Dear? The State of the Email Salutation,” this is a topic which has stirred up quite a controversy.
Those who were either interviewed for these articles or who were quoted in them were adamant about their stance. Some felt the word “dear” was old-fashioned and out-of-date. One person felt it was too “girlie” while another said it was too intimate. Yet another replied that using any salutation at all takes too much time to type.
Between the two articles, opinions were all over the map and included those who preferred “hello” over “hi.” “Hey” did not seem to get any votes. Maybe all those interviewed had a mother like mine who drilled into me that “hey” was not an appropriate greeting in any situation. “Hay is for horses” was her response to anyone saying “hey”. As a Southerner, I have to admit that I use “hey” frequently as a verbal greeting with friends. It is as common as grits here in the South.
Here is my stance on how you should begin email correspondence from an email etiquette point of view:
- One size does not fit all. Use the salutation appropriate to the situation.
- Use “dear” in your initial correspondence with someone you have never met and with whom you are trying to establish a business relationship.
- Use “hi” or “hello” once you have established a relationship.
- Follow the lead of your client or customer. If the other person always uses “dear”, then so do you. If they begin their reply to you with “hi,” then follow suit.
- Use a salutation of some form. There is always enough time to be courteous,
- Along with your greeting include the person’s name. However, never use anyone’s first name in business until they give you permission.
- With friends you may be as informal as you like.
From reading all the quotes and comments in these two articles, I feel confident that “dear” is not dead. But I believe that we are going to see a lot more of “hi” in our in-boxes.
Do you need personal etiquette coaching or would you like to 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.
Based in Savannah, Georgia, Lydia is available for national, regional and local speaking and training engagements. She has suitcase; will travel.