Saturday, January 29, 2011

News: Discarding the Salutation "Dear" in Emails.

Dear Readers,

The salutation "Dear" which is usually used in writing letters whether formal or informal is slowly being discarded in electronic communication such as SMS, emails and Twitter.

There are reasons for discarding but there are others who would maintain the convention.

Read the article below to come to our own conclusion.

As for me, I'm slowly discarding the use of the salutation "dear" for the sake of brevity.

But there are times, because of  what I was taught and for reasons of uncertainty, I will still use that salutation.

What do you think dear readers?

Rodney Tan


JANUARY 6, 2011

Hey, Folks: Here's a Digital Requiem For a Dearly Departed Salutation

Writers of Emails and Texts Find a Too-Tender Greeting a Comedy of Manners


When Abraham Lincoln wrote to Ulysses S. Grant in July 1863, after a key victory during the Civil War, he began his letter, "My dear General."

When Giselle Barry emailed a throng of reporters recently to tell them about an important development regarding her congressman boss, she started the message, "Hey, folks."

Like many modern communicators, Ms. Barry, a spokeswoman for Rep. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, has nixed the salutation "dear" in her emails.

"Dear is a bit too intimate and connotes a personal relationship," she said.

Ms. Barry said she wants to keep her business communications with the press at "the utmost and highest level of professionalism."

Across the Internet the use of dear is going the way of sealing wax. Email has come to be viewed as informal even when used as formal communication, leaving some etiquette experts appalled at the ways professional strangers address one another.

People who don't start communications with dear, says business-etiquette expert Lydia Ramsey, "lack polish."

"They come across as being abrupt," says Ms. Ramsey, who founded a Savannah, Ga., etiquette consultancy called Manners That Sell.

"It sets the tone for that business relationship, and it shows respect," she says. "Email is so impersonal it needs all the help it can get."

But to Kevin Caron, the word dear seems girlie. While he may begin an occasional email to a female family member with dear, Mr. Caron, a sculptor in Phoenix, would never use it when writing a man, even a client.

Kevin Caron

"Guys talking to guys—I'm sorry, that's against the code," says Mr. Caron, a 50-year-old former trucker and auto-repair-shop worker.

Dear isn't in Mr. Caron's business lexicon at all, he says. He begins an email to a client with "salutations" or "good morning" or sometimes "to whom it may concern."

"I feel dear is a little intimate for someone I don't know," says Mr. Caron.

The art of proper salutations in communications has been debated through the centuries.

In his 11th-century "Flores Rhetorici" (or Flowers of Rhetoric), the Italian cardinal Alberic of Monte Cassino implored his students to use this guide for a salutation in letters:

"First we must consider the identity of the sender and of the person to whom the letter is sent; we must consider whether he is noble or common in rank, a friend or an enemy, then what kind of person he is and of what background."

The same guidelines apply in business email today, says Joyce Walker, an English professor at Illinois State University in Normal.

Rarely would anyone use dear when writing a friend, but it might be appropriate when applying for a job or emailing a boss, she says.

The salutation 'Dear' is going the way of the hand-written letter. WSJ's Dionne Searcey and Digits' Lauren Goode talk about the phenomenon.

"How formal you are in your email might be based more on the actuality of the writing situation," Ms. Walker says.

On her blog, the author Amy Tan has mused about evolving salutations she has noticed in her inbox.

"Dear Amy Tan" is from eBay or PayPal, telling me I have either paid for something or should pay for it. 'Hey Amy' is only from someone I know well enough to hug," she wrote. "No salutation is from my husband, my assistant, my friends I am in touch with everyday. Familiarity breeds lack of hello, hey, and dear."

Etiquette experts, knowing that salutations set the tone for correspondences, say that dropping a greeting and using only a name can seem cold.

Using "hey" can seem too familiar.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston, who runs the Syntax Training business writing school in Seattle, says she tells clients they can forgo dear in email but must keep it in business letters.

"We don't use dear because someone is dear to us," she says, "but because we understand the standards of business writing and recognize the standards of intelligent business people."

The Emily Post Institute says it's OK in general to drop dear but advises using it in particularly formal email.

"I don't think it's as important as it used to be," says author and institute spokeswoman Anna Post, the great-great granddaughter of etiquette guru Emily Post. "You can still certainly use it. If you don't know someone well, or for a new client, I would absolutely use dear."

Chris Allison, a 36-year-old international-trade analyst, says he uses dear only when he doesn't mean it.

"I find that I am most likely to start a letter with 'dear' exactly when the recipient is least dear to me, probably because I have never met the person," says Mr. Allison, who lives in Washington, D.C. Otherwise, he is more familiar, starting an email with "Hi."

For Hal Reiter, chairman and chief executive of headhunter Herbert Mines Associates, abandoning dear is all about speed.


“ Dear Sir or Madam, Generally speaking, I'd like to offer my sincere apologies for attempting to confer a basic level of respect for you. In deference to the changing times, I have now adopted Fozzie bear's trademark "How a'yaaaaaaaaaaaaa?" ”

—Charles Mc Manus

If he uses the word at all when corresponding with clients, he drops it after the first email in the chain.

"It has to do with how fast we want to type and get it done," says Mr. Reiter, who also uses an auto signature that automatically types "Thanks a lot, Hal" at the end of each email.

Some people prefer to stick to the old niceties. Lynn Ducommun, of Manhattan, says she usually uses dear in her email communications. "Probably because I'm a dinosaur, my emailing to me is equivalent to writing a letter or a note," she says.

She admits to sometimes signing off with "xo," meaning "hugs and kisses."

These days, even the current Dear Abby rarely uses dear. When writing a friend, she says, she is more inclined to write, "Hi, sweetie."

"We live in an age of technology, and things are going to evolve, and it's a good thing," says Jeanne Phillips, who writes the advice column founded by her mother.

It especially strikes Ms. Phillips as being disingenuous to use dear when writing someone you don't particularly like. "Sometimes it's polite to refrain from saying everything you're thinking," she says.

Write to Dionne Searcey at

Copyright 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. Distribution and use of this material are governed by our Subscriber Agreement and by copyright law. For non-personal use or to order multiple copies, please contact Dow Jones Reprints at 1-800-843-0008 or visit


President Abraham Lincoln writing to his wife.
Correspondence styles have changed since 1860, when
Abraham Lincoln addressed this letter to
Mary Todd Lincoln 'Dear Wife.'


  1. As the etiquette consultant quoted in the article, I appreciate your point of view regarding the use of "dear" in email. May I refer you to my blog post in response to the article, explaining my perspective on when and how to use "dear" and other salutations in email messages? The site is

    I appreciate the contribution of language teachers. I was once one myself.