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I usually see just format in the emails I receive daily:

Hello Dorian--

I'm calling you in regard with the something...


I see comma after the greetings too but I am not sure why double hyphen is being used there. Can someone explain it?

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That's not a double dash, that's a double hyphen. (And I've never seen this myself. I'd file it under "trying to be fancy, and failing miserably".) – RegDwigнt Aug 15 '12 at 18:54
A double hyphen was used to replace a long dash back in the days of typewriters. This is left over from then. My impression is that this was meant to be informal—in order of formality, from formal to informal, you had (1) Dear Mr. Doe: (2) Dear John, (3) Hello John-- . – Peter Shor Aug 15 '12 at 18:56
It's for people who can't figure out to use Shift + Command + - to get a proper em dash. The real problem is that one uses a comma in the salutation, not an em dash. This belongs on Writers.SE, where they will explain why one should use spaced ellipses . . . not what you have up there. – tchrist Aug 15 '12 at 18:58
@RegDwightАΑA: Thanks for the fix! – Tarik Aug 15 '12 at 19:07
@Charles― It is one thing to close with a U+2013 EN DASH or U+2014 EM DASH or even better a quotation dash at U+2015, the HORIZONTAL BAR which doesn't have a linebreak opportunity after it ―tom. But it is something else to start with one, as thought it were a comma. Never seen such a thing myself. Doesn't matter if it is a pair of hyphens or not; it still is something I have never seen. – tchrist Aug 15 '12 at 20:13
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Haha, I don't know what their deal is. After a salutation, use a comma for a personal letter, a colon for a business letter, and either for an email. Dashes are not acceptable.

For example

Dear Mr. Lawrence:

¶ This is an example of a business salutation . . .

Dear Sally,

¶ This is an example of a personal salutation . . .

Dear Kane (,/:)

¶ This is an example of punctuation options in an email salutation . . . 
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I'm not familiar with using a colon for this. I would always use a comma. Is this a US-EN thing? – Dominic Cronin Oct 6 '12 at 21:03

I don't know why someone would put a double hyphen after the recipient's name in an email, but the Internet has long-standing tradition of the "sigdash". In early email and news software, the convention was adopted that anything below a line containing two dashes and a space, was your signature block.

Most email and news software to this day respects this de facto convention, although, to my knowledge, it never made it into any Internet standard or RFC.

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The "double hyphen" is a stand-in for an em dash (—), which is a punctuation usually used for expressing a pause before a related thought. Some of its functions are redundant with colons, semicolons, and even commas, although using it in place of a comma is typically frowned upon as unnecessary.

What you're dealing with in your greeting is an em dash taking the place of a colon or comma. The distinction is trivial, but to me it suggests a slight hesitation—the meaning of which could convey either an anxiety or something completely neutral.

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