Email etiquette – To greet or not to greet

In May’s reading and writing round-up, I shared the case for etiquette in emails and communications. Near the same time that I was reading this article, I was listening to a podcast (Chris Loves Julia) where one of the hosts made the case for not including a salutation or signature in emails.

For both, it’s a question of courtesy and respect.

Molly Worthen, assistant professor of history at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, argues that requiring students to use salutations and titles in emails helps to establish professors’ authority. At the same time, following a more formal style of communications teaches students professionalism.

Julia Marcum’s stance is that once you know a person–or even on the second email in a series of communications–you can forgo the salutations. Your recipients’ email clients tells them who sent the email. They know who they are. Inserting “Hi Zack,” and “Warm regards, Zoe” is unnecessary. It’s more respectful of people’s time to get right to the point. She found that when she removed the salutations from her messages, her recipients followed suit in their responses.

I decided to give the less formal route a try myself. I’ve used it only with colleagues and people I work with regularly. So far, no one seems offended. In fact, I’ve noticed a few other people eschewing salutations as well. I like the direct approach, and I feel like it saves some time–and respects other people’s time. I still use proper grammar–no texting shortforms–and work to be polite and clear in what I’m asking.

For people that I don’t know as well or that I’m emailing for the very first time, I absolutely take a more formal approach. I think carefully about how I craft my message, what I’m asking of them and work to convey respect for their time and expertise.

So my answer to the question of “to greet or not to greet” is it depends. Email is not a letter, and business has evolved to be less formal. The most important consideration in all communications is to be professional, no matter how you open and close your message.

What’s your stance on email salutations? Have you tried the less formal route? Or are you a fan of formality?


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