Years ago it was easy.
There was no email. No texts. No social media…just old-fashioned letters that came through the post
And all letters began with Dear…
The only tricky bit was remembering whether to use Yours sincerely or Yours faithfully at the end (and my dad was usually available to advise on this).
How times change.
There’s a wide range of personalised content, all trying to grab your attention, make a favourable impression and build a positive relationship.
Rules are now fluid. In fact, there really aren’t any rules at all.
Below are just some of the salutations we’ve received in the last few weeks, and what impression they made.
Hi. It’s now the default digital greeting. It’s probably the most popular salutation around and is used universally across the digital stratosphere. It’s the greeting that defines our times, conveying an assured breeziness that’s upbeat, interesting and engaging. It’s a great opener to any conversation, using confidence and friendliness to put the recipient at ease.
Sounds good. The problem, though, is that it’s ubiquitous. It’s the salutational equivalent of ‘have a nice day’: it can come across as being a touch vacant and disingenuous. Is it really appropriate to ‘Hi’ me when the sender has never been in touch before and is trying to sell me water coolers, paper shredders, SEO or some other dreary business service?
Dear. It’s the safe way to start. Then again, it seems old fashioned, unimaginative and even slightly formal. It’s used if those contacting me really don’t want to offend. But when I receive a dear email it almost immediately defines a formality to a relationship (which may not even have started yet). Then again, not everything in writing is trying to develop that conversation or interaction everyone goes on about. It’s a simple way of relaying information, and if that’s the case Dear is absolutely fine.
Hello. If you are worried about being over friendly, this is definitely a notch or two down on the familiarity dial. It’s a clear and confident opener which acknowledges the recipient without assuming you are already best mates. It’s functional, effective and usually very polite.
Sounds promising. Then again, there’s sometimes something a bit strange about emails or other content starting with ‘hello’. It’s like the guy at a party or business who comes up to you out of the blue and says “hello, my name is …”. Here ‘hello’ is just a brief acknowledgement of your existence before he focuses solely on talking about himself.
Hiya. Strangely, I did not mind this greeting. It’s a kind of upgrade on Hi or a Hi deluxe. Somehow it seems a little bit softer and more personal than your standard greeting. Perhaps it caught me in a good mood, but this play for my attention did draw me in. It was from a brand I’m quite fond of, so perhaps that explains it. Then again, I certainly wouldn’t Hiya my customers or clients unless I knew them very well.
Greetings. This one’s quite new on the block. It’s now seen more regularly on those acknowledgement or status update emails you get from online retailers or brands. Use with caution. It trumpets the content and assumes the recipient will be pleased to hear from you, and even more pleased with what you’ve got to say. If they aren’t, then they could well feel a touch riled and annoyed.
A few Americanism have also been spotted recently. They are obviously creeping into more common usage this side of the Atlantic…
Howdy. I got a ‘howdy’ email the other day from a clothing brand. They weren’t selling cowboy boots or Stetson hats, so I was taken slightly aback. It was certainly bold and confident, assuming that a close friendship existed between us.
It did not. And I was then left thinking ‘who are these people?’ Mind you, perhaps that was their intention all along.
Hey Buddy. This sets the standard when it came to over-familiarisation There’s nothing wrong with being friendly and treating people on the level, but not everyone wants to be treated as if they are old mates from school (a west coast surf school, at that). A bit more distance might be worth thinking about.
Do get in touch if you’ve been on the receiving end of any other salutations, we’d love to hear from you.
Likewise, if you need advice on tone of voice and what impression your writing is making, you know who to ask….