W Christian Consulting

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Hi! Hey! Hello, dear. (Punctuation and Salutations)

Dear Reader,

Writing emails (Sadly, I never send letters anymore) always gives me more than a brief moment of frustration and anxiety because I often don’t know how to open then.  Should they be formal or informal, personal or professional, properly punctuated or commonly punctuated?  Similarly, I get a little anxious when I come to the close of the email as well.

The salutation sets the tone for an email and reflects your relationship with the recipient.  A fairly standard salutation is “Dear Recipient,” but what do I do if Recipient isn’t really that dear to me.  That is, what most people don’t realize is that this common greeting actually suggests a bit of closeness with the other person.  So, to me, I could never use it with a complete stranger.  I’ve given this way more thought than I really care to admit.

An alternative address that is becoming more acceptable is to skip the greeting completely and just jump in with “Recipient,”.  That makes sense and I like it; however, where “Dear Recipient,” conveys too much familiarity, the name-only opening can be too abrupt.  It’s appropriate for short direct messages but I find it lacking for longer emails–especially those in which I’m making a request.

So I often settle with a “Hi” or “Hello”–informal but not too familiar.  Unfortunately, that brings me to another conundrum.  How should it be punctuated?  For proper punctuation, there are two things to remember.  First, “Hi” and “Hello” are complete thoughts–exclamations in fact–and should be followed by terminal punctuation, as in “Hi!”  Second, Recipient is a direct address and should be separated from the rest of the sentence with a comma.  So, the proper greeting is “Hi, Recipient!”  or “Hello, Recipient.”  I’ve actually come to terms with this one.  If I’m going with “Hi”, “Hello”, or “Hey”, then I punctuate properly and feel a slight twinge of jealousy of the people who freely reply with a “Hi Bill,”.

Thanks for your reading time.  I won’t go into my anguish in closing an email, but you can probably imagine how that goes.



PS. Does it still make sense to have a postscript (PS) in an electronic communication?