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Bill Bennett


Greetings and salutations: How to address mail

There’s a great post on this subject at Are greetings and salutations redundant in an mail?

Mail is a quick, efficient way of communicating. It has a problem. People often come across as rude.

Some people are rude. There’s no getting away from that.

Others sound rude even when they don’t mean to. And impersonal.

Making it personal

To get around the impersonal problem, people often start a mail message with ‘Hi’. If they know the person’s name they use it. This is respectful, but informal and short. It doesn’t carry any baggage.

Using a first name can go badly awry if you don’t know the person. You might pick the wrong name or an inappropriate one.

This is especially the case when the people on the other end of the email come from another culture. Do you know which of the names you can see is the person’s first name.

The danger of straying beyond Hi

Any other word other than ‘Hi’ here seems wrong.

Mails that start with ‘good morning‘ or ‘good evening’ are polite, but make potentially wrong assumptions about when mail is read. Assumptions are dangerous.

‘Dear Mr…’ sounds like something from Jane Austin.

‘Hello’ is acceptable, although it can sound twee. ‘Hey’ works if you know the other person well and want to sound jaunty. It’s a higher level of informality. That can be good, but it doesn’t work with every message.

I sometimes remember to write ‘Kia Ora‘ when mailing another New Zealander. If the phrase offends people, then that’s an added bonus. It can get an odd reception from overseas, but most people don’t mind.

There’s no need to sign-off with anything at the end of a message. I have a signature at the bottom of my mail. That’s to let people know how to get in touch. Nothing else.



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