Hello? Hi? Oh dear…Posted by Sharon Creese on January 28, 2011
How do you start off your emails, and do you always feel comfortable doing it that way? The question of whether to use ‘Dear’, ‘Hi’ or just the person’s name has come up many times, most recently here. It’s certainly a tricky one. ‘Hi’ sounds too informal in many cases, but ‘Dear’ seems overly formal and rather like you’re mixing communication types (starting an email as though it were a written letter).
Personally, if I don’t know the other person well, I tend to go for ‘Hello’ rather than ‘Dear’. It seems to fit the informal nature of email, but is more respectful than just saying ‘Hi’. Leaving the salutation out altogether just seems rude to me – if I get an email that just begins ‘Sharon’, I immediately have the impression that the sender is annoyed, and I’m likely to receive their email in a less-than-welcoming frame of mind. ‘Hello’ seems a nice, neutral way to start, without upsetting anyone.
Here’s an interesting article I adopted for use in the EFL classroom.
(For some reason it’s in the Fashion & Style section of the NYT!)
If I write in a formal setting, I will use Dear Firstname Lastname for female addressees – this gets around the Ms/Mrs problem. I tend to take my clues from responses – if someone writes ‘Hi and ‘Cheers’ that’s fine, if they stick to ‘Dear and ‘Yours’ I remain in that register.
When sending emails to professional contacts in the UK, I always open with “Dear Ms/Mr Last Name” and sign off with a formal “Sincerely” or “Best regards”.
When sending professional emails to contacts in the US, I use “Dear First Name” (Or “Dear All:”)and sign off with “Thank you” unless it is a casual colleague when I’ll say “Hi First Name” and sign off with “Thanks”.
With personal emails, I will start with “Hi/Hiya First Name” or “Dear First Name” depending on the context of the email and how well I know someone. I sign off with “Love”, “Thanks”, or “Speak soon” depending on the relationship, too.
Alternatively, I have friends I email regularly where I’ll just jump straight into the message without a greeting—as if continuing a conversation. Those are often simply signed with an ‘x’ or my first initial.
Thanks for all the comments everyone, this is clearly a topic close to our hearts!
Interesting article, Joseph, thanks for sharing it.
Always a tricky debate however I feel you can’t go wrong err on the side of being more formal when in doubt. Dear First Name Last Name when you don’t know the person works best.