Let's say that somebody from a partner firm with whom I've never spoken before starts an email to me with "Dear Mr. Rossi,".

When a reply to her, I think I will then have to start with "Dear Ms. Her-Surname," to not sound disrepectful. But I would like to make this email conversation less formal next time.

Is there any better alternative to the sentence below?

Dear Ms. Her-Surname,

First of all, feel free to call me Ivo. Regarding your...

  • 4
    Your suggestion looks good to me! – psmears Feb 18 '11 at 15:52
  • "My name is Mister Surname!" :) – zetetic Feb 18 '11 at 21:08

Dear Ms. Her-Surname,

First of all, feel free to call me Ivo. Regarding your...

  • Apparently my own suggestion is good (see comments to my question above). But if you have other suggestions, please post them. – Ivo Rossi Feb 18 '11 at 16:08
  • 7
    I think your approach is a good one. An alternative is to be less direct (but risk not getting your message across) by signing off using your first name only: "Regards, Ivo". When I see this I interpret it as an invitation to use first names. – Alex Trueman Feb 18 '11 at 22:22
  • 1
    @Alex: Your approach is the one I would use (and always try to be sensitive to). Unfortunately, many people are almost completely oblivious. – Marcin May 1 '11 at 10:05
  • 1
    @Marcin: I don't know whether people are oblivious, or just not entirely sure whether it's really an invitation. One possibility is to try the subtle approach at first, and if that doesn't work issue a direct invitation. – Peter Shor Jun 17 '11 at 16:34

I think that might be about as good as you can get in English. In some other languages, there are words for that, e.g. in Spanish, the verb "tutear" has roughly this meaning (spanishdict.com translates it as "to treat with familiarity"), which invites a degree of informality, and probably implies that the speaker wants the listener(s) to call him or her by a given name or nickname. English doesn't have different conjugations for the formal and informal second person, so it makes sense that there isn't one word for this.

If I were writing this, I would write it either exactly as you did "feel free to call me...", or possibly "please call me..." if I strongly prefer to be called by something. I think there is rarely a social stigma in American English to one person inviting the other to use an informal address—and the cases in which there might be, it's the kind of thing you usually know when you see it, such as talking with the president, prime minister, head of a company, etc.

  • 1
    Well, we have an informal second person... we just don't use it anymore. Thou art, thou hast, thou comest and goest, thou eatest and runnest. – MT_Head Jun 17 '11 at 6:51
  • You're right. When you don't use them every day, it's easy to forget about "thou" and "thee". – Andy Jun 21 '11 at 15:15
  • 1
    It's probably fair to consider "Thou" to be a super-formal usage now, rather than an informal second person, since the only instance a modern speaker would be familiar with is from divine command in that Charleton Heston movie. – DougM Mar 25 '14 at 14:12

I received two phone calls recently from two non-native speakers, one from Poland and one from Pakistan.

I wrote to them “Please call me Dick”, so they called me — on the phone.

A non-native speaker myself, I have now switched to “Please call me by my first name.”

  • That’a ok, presuming they know what your first name is, Richard. Er, Rich. Er, Dick. See the problem? – tchrist Sep 29 '14 at 11:42

Please skip the "feel free" - always. (What, exactly, is one "feeling"? And, the situation is business-to-business. Stay formal. I do not understand the near-phobia of respectful formality. And why would anyone want to become informal so quickly? Do you believe that, doing so, will give you some kind of "in" with the person? They "care" more about what you are saying, and/or who you are? No. They don't.

Why give the idea that the most important thing in the world is that you call each other by your first names. This is business.

In ALL situations, including public schools, (and to students), the formal address is the high and better choice.

  • In answer to your question "What exactly is one 'feeling' [when one 'feels free']?" the probable answer is "unconstrained." If my understanding on this point is correct, "please feel free to do X" is logically interchangeable with "please don't feel that you under any obligation not to do X"—an expression whose meaning I find both straightforward and reasonable. Of course, expressions don't have to be meaningless to win a place among a person's pet peeves. – Sven Yargs Mar 25 '18 at 7:52
  • "Feel free," sounds as though the individual saying it a) Isn't telling you what you needed to know, and b) does not care, and c) who needed your permission. "Call me anytime." (If you mean it). – J. Doe Mar 26 at 18:27

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.