E-mail Salutations

by Charmaine on February 27, 2009

How long does it take you to stop saying “Dear” or “Hi” in the course of an e-mail exchange? And do you place a comma after the salutation but before the name, even though there’s another comma — blam! — right after the name?

I’m anti-post-salutation-comma and proud of it. My last boss not only used a comma after the salutation, she actually treated the salutation like a sentence and ended it with a period: Hi, Charmaine. It’s not incorrect — and I certainly got used to it — it’s just not what I learned back in typing class. (Yes, I learned about salutations in typing class, not English class. Didn’t you?)

But back to my first question. Liz Danzico (@bobulate on Twitter) did an informal survey of her inbox and calculated that it takes 3.5 e-mails for a responder to drop the salutation. Check out her fascinating post here.

Money quote:

A variety of salutations will likely be used over the course of an email correspondence, and their evolution reveals something about the developing relationship (or the perceived one) between the correspondents. Just as you wouldn’t ignore body language that indicates whether someone is intending to shake your hand or high-five you, nor should you ignore email-greeting intentions — no matter how well you know someone.

We instinctively sense the delay when sending postal mail and would never dream of composing an old-fashioned letter without a salutation. Conversely, the immediacy of e-mail makes formal salutations seem silly. You just said hello five minutes ago. Do you really need to do it again?

Isn’t it odd that we don’t have more choices for salutations? We could get around this awkwardness and say hello 10 different ways. Danzico’s post only mentions four: Dear, Hi, Hey, and Greetings. I’m lucky that, being a New Orleans native, I can also get away with “Hi y’all.” (By the way, that’s y’all, not ya’ll. I realize ya’ll is colloquial, but the contraction is for you all, not ya all.)

What we really need is some kind of shorthand for a response, a repondez s’il vous plait form of “back at ya.” According to Google Translate, the glorious Frenchy way of saying this is retour à vous.

So what should we do?  Start repeated e-mail exchanges with RAV?

I will if you will.

Leave a Comment

Next post: