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Do I really need to write my email this way?

Hi John,

[My Message here]

Regards, Jane

The email header already includes the to and from. The recipient should not be confused by who the email is directed at (himself) and who it's coming from if the greeting and salutation are missing.

Some people might say the greeting and salutation are there for politeness. Is this really true? Will you be offended if they're left out? As a website user interface designer, I was always taught by the great usability experts (Steve Krug, Jacob Nielson) that writing more than you need is disrespectful of a website user's time. To me, leaving out the greeting and salutation makes the email easier to read.

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I may be overly romanticizing this, but in my opinion a proper salutation is the mark of a gentleman (or lady). I'd rather find and discard two superfluous words from the message body than to give up the privilege of ending a message with a simple Thanks. –  HaL Mar 28 '11 at 21:10
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@HaL: Second that. –  Cerberus Mar 28 '11 at 23:54
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More a technical term on email ... if I use cc or bcc and not only to I always use a name to make it easier for recipients only copied in to see who the main recipient is. –  sunn0 Mar 29 '11 at 13:24
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When you send a letter to someone, you include all of this even though both pieces of information are on the envelope. I don't see anything different about email. –  Kosmonaut Mar 29 '11 at 14:09
    
Well, with letters people frequently don't have the envelope to refer to while they are reading the letter. That's a little different. –  jhocking Jun 8 '11 at 18:05

12 Answers 12

up vote 16 down vote accepted

Some sensitivity to age and formality is needed to answer this question. A formal note does not change in structure because it's being sent via email. There's nothing special or magical about email that gives one permission to be forward, rude, or insulting.

When writing to older persons, persons in authority, superiors, et al, I recommend a salutation and a complimentary close. These are not "wastes of time" by any means - they serve very specific functions if you are skilled in their use. Both the opening and the close allow you to frame your relationship with the recipient. For example:

Melissa:

Hi Melissa:

Dear Melissa:

These all have a different feel and express a different kind of tone. Paired with the proper close, you have no need for silly emoticons and winkies and such.

However, younger people will find these things to be quite strange and confusing. In sending email to anyone 25 and younger, I'd recommend being extremely curt and you might even be pushing the envelope by using punctuation.

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15  
That's not true - us young people like punctuation too. (+1 anyways) –  advs89 Mar 28 '11 at 21:39
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I agree with @advs89! Young'unz absolutely <3 punctuations!!!! LOLZ!!!!!!!! –  oosterwal Mar 28 '11 at 21:53
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I agree! Young people are not the fools they are often made out to be. –  Cerberus Mar 28 '11 at 22:42
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@TheRave - I think for young people email is actually the long formal communication (as opposed to a txt)! Personaly what annoys me is a one line email followed by a 10line sig, a supposedly witty remark, a corporate mission statement, and a 2page disclaimer from the company lawyer and an attachment that turns out to just be the logo. –  mgb Mar 29 '11 at 0:44
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Remember also people that this only applies to certain cultures/languages. Try leaving out email formalities in Germany for example and everyone will silently hate you. –  Will Hardy Mar 29 '11 at 9:07

As the others have said, this depends very much on the people you are communicating with. I'd say, better safe than sorry: as a rule, it is best to include greetings and a closing line with your name in your e-mails, unless you're absolutely sure the recipient will not appreciate them. In informal e-mails to friends, just Hi + Recipient and Sender is enough:

Hi John-John,

content

Tom-Tom

It takes an infinitesimal amount of time, and it looks neater. You show the other person that you appreciate his sense of style enough to make a small effort. The same applies to rereading your e-mail to check for errors: I nearly always do that, though some errors always slip through regardless. Oh, and using correct grammar, style, and punctuation is always a good idea, as it makes your e-mail easier and more pleasant to read.

I'm talking about the first e-mail in a conversation here: if you send a short reply to an informal e-mail after a short interval of time, say after a day or two, the initial greetings in the first message of the "conversation" should still count.

Most of my friends, my colleagues, and I, who are mostly in our twenties, always use greetings and closing lines in regular e-mails, especially if they are group e-mails, requests, or longer e-mails. Even so, if I omitted greeting or closing line, no eyebrows would be raised; but it would be assumed that I was writing in haste. And a quick reply to someone you see often will usually not have greetings or closing lines. But a one-line e-mail out of nowhere with a request comes across as a little rude to me.

If I were about to date someone and I got an e-mail with stupid errors in it and bad style, this would tell me something about the other person's sense of style, even though the errors themselves are not important. Call me a snob—but it would be a slight turn-off, requiring compensation. Similarly I will have slightly more faith in someone's competence in business and academia if he is able to communicate with impeccable style and punctilio. It probably won't be a deal-breaker, but every small effort helps. That said, a lack of greetings and closing lines is absolutely not on the same scale as errors in grammar or punctuation; in informal e-mails, it isn't very important. But why not do it? It takes only a second or two.

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This is cultural, either large scale or very small scale. Which is to say, it depends. Your mom might be offended if you don't have a salutation specific to her. Your boss may wonder who it is from. Your coworker might be offended by any kind of salutation.

I find that a salutation is useful in its redundancy; if it's missing at the end, my eye has to travel all over the page before I find the 'from' address (which may need to be interpreted before I realize exactly who sent it).

So the answer is, depending on the context, do what everybody else does, or people will think you are weird.

I personally find greetings empty (except it proves that they know my name), but I like a nominal salutation (literally, just the name) so that I know how to address them in the future (either in email or in person). I find "Cheers,", "Regards", whatever, also empty bacause I want to read them literally, and there's very little there that -is- literal.

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In my experience, email can be used in one of two ways:

  1. Sending letters in electronic form.
  2. Sending asynchronous, quick communications - similar to Skype or text messaging.

If you're sending a letter in electronic form - then as another answer stated, it should be no different from a letter you would write and send through snail mail. However if you're sending an email that took you 1 minute to write and it's part of a string of short communications between you and the others you are mailing to, then drop the formalities - it's all about getting your point efficiently across to the other people. In the latter case I usually drop the "Dear Dr. Whoosiwhatsits III" and I just have my say and then sign it with my initials - JB

JB

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This is probably the best answer here. Bumping it, rather than reposting my diatribe on this same subject that earned me a (proud) -5 so far. (english.stackexchange.com/questions/32199/usage-of-dear-all/… ) –  T.E.D. Jul 27 '11 at 14:03

I find it best to give both courtesy and grace. That is:

  • Give courtesy by greeting the recipient by his or her name (if known) or group name (“Folks”, “Band Members”, or what you will) and title (if appropriate), all properly spelled, punctuated, and nicely spaced, of course, and closing with “Sincerely” or “Thank you” and your name. As others have pointed out for centuries, courtesy costs nothing and builds relationships.

  • Give grace by not requiring that others do as you do. If you receive an email without a salutation or complimentary close and signature, go to the content and don't assume that your correspondent is a boor. Again, it costs nothing, and builds relationships.

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I feel like if you are only sending the email to one person directly, these are not necessary. However, if you are “cc”ing or “bcc”ing someone, they are essential, so that the people receiving the mail know who it is directed to. I also feel that the closing is just out of sheer politeness. I know personally I can't stand to receive mails without them.

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It's not necessary to include salutations when you have ongoing communications with someone. In fact I think it can get a little old. Otherwise I think it's important to start with minimally "Name,"

"Jimmy,
Please forward those reports right away."

I am certainly one to get straight to the point so as not to take up anyone's time (although, despite doing this out of courtesy I find it is often viewed as uncharismatic and gets poor results and builds poor relationships). However, I think not first acknowledging your recipient can make you appear arrogant, selfish, and overbearing. It says "you're not important enough for me to care about or consider, I just need you to serve me by responding to this email." Just my thoughts, but then again I'm not under 25 either.

As others have said it depends on context and your recipient.

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I believe the rule on whether to use salutations is to treat the greeting like a conversation, and the closing with the intent to be informative. I'll give my philosophy on them.

Generally I will include a "Hi, [name]" at the top if it's the first time I'm emailing in the current subject (including when I start the email string). After that, it's more of a conversation than "electronic mail", and I generally omit the greeting unless it's directed towards a person whom I haven't directly addressed yet. In other words, I "Hi, [name]" each person once per subject.

For closings (signatures) I have 2. One of them is a 4-liner that has absolutely all of my contact info in it, as concisely as possible. The other is a one-liner that reads "--[my name]" so that I can be easily identified without having to decipher the FROM: header into a human name. I use the 4-liner once per conversation, so that my contact info always exists in each email string. Unless it's a very formal email string (e.g. to VPs, C_O's, etc.. depending on recipients' formality as well: we have very informal, down-to-earth C_O's where I work) I will switch to my one-liner signature after that.

As for including a "Thanks" at the end of an email... just use logic for that one. If you asked someone to do something, or if someone did something for you (e.g. supplied you with information), then it is appropriate to thank them, and a simple "Thanks" at the end is a perfectly appropriate way to do so.

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It depends on the recipient and the content - I use salutations when sending proposals to potential clients, but prefer a short one-liner with no salutation if my boss is requesting me to take action of some sort. When my inbox is open, or when I am checking email on my phone, I can see what he needs from me without opening the email.

Better yet, if the message is very short, I will make that message the subject and write [no text] in the body of the email. The people I do this with appreciate it.

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To whom it may concern:

I absolutely think that a salutation and a signature is requirement no matter who you perceive your audience to be. As a society I feel we have become way too informal, and most of the younger people are simply too lazy to take the time to write a coherent, well-crafted letter. It is very unfortunate, as they make a negative impression with me if they do not use their writing skills and knowledge right from the start. They appear to think that they can communicate with the world in business, school etc. as they do with their peers, and as a person who interviews people for job openings with some frequency I find this trend quite disparaging! Context and diction are key to making your way in life no matter if you are a doctor or a garbage collector!

Regards,

Christian

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Almost +1'd this just for the lols. I wonder how many got it... –  T.E.D. Jul 27 '11 at 13:57

@JoJo: The problem with your question is that you make an unfair, possibly dangerous assumption:

The email header already includes the to and from.

The email header also includes the carbon copy field (CC) and may contain multiple "to" addressees.

The "from" field is not guaranteed to be accurate, especially when using personal accounts. The "from" field may include a nickname, pen name, business name, partial name, unfamiliar form of the name, etc. People are not always sure what name appears in the "from" field as that name is often configured once and then never seen again.

The "from" field also does not contain any alternate contact forms.

The recipient should not be confused by who the email is directed at (himself) and who it's coming from if the greeting and salutation are missing.

In larger organizations, it is common practice to copy managers on task-related e-mails. Especially with the CC field. This isn't done purely for show, it's also important for tracking and information sharing.

When I include two or more people on an e-mail it make perfect sense to address the target of that e-mail. If I send an e-mail to two co-workers and a manager, I may want only one worker to reply while everyone is involved.

Compare the following two:

#1:

from: me
to: boss, expert, peer
subject: a question
message: Hello expert;...

#2:

from: me
to: boss, expert, peer
subject: a question
message: Hello team;...

These are clearly different e-mails, as indicated by the first line of the message.

Are greetings and salutations redundant in an e-mail?

I think the above examples prove quite clearly that they are not redundant.

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This is the best answer here, I think. –  Neil Fein Jul 27 '11 at 1:10
    
Disagree. The To and From fields are indeed trivially hackable. However, the body of an email is doubly so. If I can't trust you to tell the truth in your headers, I certainly can't trust the contents better! –  T.E.D. Jul 27 '11 at 14:01

No, you don't. It does project a somewhat greater politeness, but not to the extent that anybody should be offended by its absence. It also projects a significantly greater old-fashionedness. Use it if you have a specific motivation to, leave it out otherwise.

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When writing to friends, I always leave them out because I know we're trying to exchange info efficiently. When writing in the workplace, should I include them? –  JoJo Mar 28 '11 at 20:50
    
@JoJo: In workplace communication, I would tend to include them when writing to someone I haven't communicated with before or don't communicate with often. (Or anyone who routinely includes such boilerplate in their emails.) –  chaos Mar 28 '11 at 21:04
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@JoJo: I tend to include them with the first email, but drop them for any followups. –  Arkive Mar 29 '11 at 2:28
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Emails that don't include at least a salutation (unless it's an ongoing thread) come across to me as curt and rude, and unless I know the person, significantly affect how I respond to the email. –  Neil Fein Jul 27 '11 at 1:09

protected by RegDwigнt Apr 28 '11 at 18:06

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