This week’s WordPress weekly writing topic is Weekly Writing Challenge: Mind the Gap. The topic made me think of the impact email has on our generation these days. Due to email the way we write has changed and this weekly topic is constrained only to Salutation to which we often pay less attention, but it does matter!! Having seen the gradual change in mode of communication from postal service to telephone to emails and mobiles, it made me think and I came up with some points.
In school we had ‘Letter Writing’ exercises which was considered important. Emails were still budding then. We had several categories like formal letter writing, informal letter writing like when we are applying for a job or writing a leave letter or to our cousins and friends etc.. We learnt that a ‘letter’ was divided into header, body and footer. ‘Salutations’ come under header section of the letter which we were told is very essential in addressing a person depending on the letter we are writing and whom we are writing to. It made me think whether to vote for ‘The world is too complicated for a single strategy. It depends who I’m writing to.’ or ‘Straight to the point: salutations belong on those things called ‘letters.’ At first I thought ‘Straight to the point: salutations belong on those things called ‘letters.’ is the answer, these days who would bother to write an email like a letter following rules? But then I thought what about when I am writing to my uncles, applying for a job, writing a thank you mail etc. don’t I think about how I address them? What impact will it have when I use an improper Salutation? They say ‘First Impression is Best Impression’, I guess in an email or a letter ‘Salutation’ is the first impression. When applying for a job, could we say ‘Hi there’ or when to aunts/uncles would we use ‘Hey you’ or even just say ‘Hey’? I could probably not!! What impression would it leave when we start an email with an improper Salutation and keep rest of the mail perfect? So I go for ‘Salutation very much matters even in email writing and it all depends on whom we are writing to’.
After all e-mail is nothing but electronic-mail. What has changed with e-mail, is it any different from conventional letter? Email is “A message or messages sent or received electronically over a computer network”. A letter is “A message or messages sent or received over a paper”. Effectively only the mode of communication has changed, rest all remains as is!! Next question would be that, do we really have to forget certain etiquette pertaining to ‘Salutation’ (or even when we write body of the letter, and end it neatly) that was earlier followed in writing a letter? The basic advantage of email is to speed up the process of communication even with distant people which a ‘Letter’ didn’t provide.
I voted for ‘The world is too complicated for a single strategy. It depends who I’m writing to.’
Yes the world is complicated to use a single strategy. A single salutation does not apply for all cases is what I believe. These are some of my strategies in writing an email, I never set these strategies. After reading the topic I browsed through my emails and I concluded that this is my general trend perhaps when emailing. These are not my hard and fast rule, I am susceptible to change sometimes.
‘Hey’ : I can use this with friends, cousins but not to address any elders in my family. I feel this is sometimes not even as formal as using ‘Hi’. I would probably use ‘Hi’ to address any of my uncles or my parents and in-laws, but I cannot imagine using ‘Hey’ for any elderly folks.
‘Hello’ is more formal. Generally if any of my friends use Hello to address me, I feel I am distant to them. Normally I use ‘Hello’ only when I am writing an email to somebody whom I have absolutely not met before and not spoken. Example: I find an art teacher and need to mail to inquire about classes and have never met the teacher before I would probably use ‘Hello’. Or when I have given an interview and need to follow up by writing to the interviewer, I use ‘Hello’.I feel ‘Hello’ sounds not only more formal but respectful, I would not hesitate to use it to address my relatives too to show some respect.
‘Hi’ is most often used salutation. Less formal than ‘Hello’. ‘Hi’ sounds neither very casual nor very formal. It has neutral effect. I have been addressed with this salutation by many recruiters while I was job hunting and I too have used to address them. Addressing me by a simple ‘Hi’ makes me more comfortable and easy.
‘Dear’ / ‘Dearest’: I use ‘Dear’ to address closest of my friends, high school/college buddies, a childhood friend, my favorite uncle/aunt/cousin/neighbor anybody whom I love a lot. I use ‘Dearest’ when I truly adore the person. ‘Dear’ is apt for business communication too. I have been addressed ‘Dear’ when I am a customer of say cable provider, Newspaper service etc. when they want more customers.
Salutations are followed by person’s name. When I am addressed as just ‘Hey’/’Hi’ and no name I wonder to whom is it addressed to, it doesn’t sound very polite either (at least for me), even though the person would not meant to be so. While speaking these things would not matter but when writing an email it does, since there is no tone variation and the reader has to interpret himself/herself, which sometimes can be misleading. I too would never address anybody as just ‘Hey’ for I feel I am somewhat being impolite. I can survive with ‘Hello’ ‘Dear’ and not followed by my name but not ‘Hey’ or ‘Hi’ !! Sometimes just using my name also sounds pleasing rather than just a ‘Hi’ or ‘Hey’!
Well, the argument goes on, but this is my opinion about using ‘Salutation’ in emails in a nutshell.