I see many people using "Dear" while addressing people in email. But, I feel "Dear" is more intimate word in English and should be used with only relations. How does the word "Dear" is used at all places irrespective of relationships?

  • In various parts of the English speaking world, complete strangers will call you friend, mate, dear, honey, darling, and even love.
    – phoog
    May 11, 2016 at 5:14
  • Is 'Dear' dead? : edition.cnn.com/2012/07/29/opinion/greene-dear-dead
    – user66974
    May 11, 2016 at 5:33
  • 1
    @Josh61 - great article! Interesting bit about the 'Hi" substitution - many years ago I had a boyfriend, a Londoner with West Indian heritage, who refused to acknowledge anyone who greeted him with "Hi" as he felt it was an insulting diminution when uttered before his name...he trained me very quickly to always greet him with "Hello".
    – Bea Bonmot
    May 11, 2016 at 19:37

2 Answers 2


As a polite way to address a person you are writing to it has been in used for centuries and has become sort of a cliché both for formal and informal mails:


  • As a polite introductory word to letters, it is attested from mid-15c.



Oddly, "Dear So-and-So" is the most formal and appropriate form of address for business letters - either in email or hard copy format. Here the use of the word "dear" is a form of address, not a term of endearment. Just make sure you put the name AFTER the "Dear" and not before! Below is a sample template from: http://www.datemplate.com/post_business-email-format-template_73979/. I encourage you to search and borrow from these kinds of templates whenever you have doubt.

When it comes to correspondence, my rule of thumb is to err on the side of formality than informality - just like I'd rather be overdressed for an occasion and still look good (and have a good time) rather than be underdressed and feel like a frumped-out freak and have no fun.

When it comes to informal address, I'll start a message with "hey doll face", "hola mama", "good evening gorgeous", "whassup cray-cray" "ciao Bella" and all that fun stuff - and never use "dear" with close friends.

But terms of endearment behaviors vary all over the country - and complete strangers, like the lady at the water bill office or the tech support guy in a call center two states away, will call you "dear", "baby girl", "pumpkin", "sweetie", etc., even "love", as mentioned above. However, even saying "yes sir" or "yes ma'am" can be both respectful and endearing, depending on tone and context.

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  • Good answer, but that form letter wasn't composed by a native user of English.
    – AmI
    May 11, 2016 at 17:10
  • Is this forum restricted to primary sources by native speakers only? If so, I shall vacate posthaste!
    – Bea Bonmot
    May 11, 2016 at 18:55
  • Don't get a bee in your bonmot -- I just thought it odd that you would use a template with such poor grammar, since your own grammar in the rest of the answer was quite good.
    – AmI
    May 18, 2016 at 21:33
  • Bee in my bonmot! Cute! Thanks for making me chuckle. Funny, I didn't notice a thing wrong with the grammar in the template, but I don't have a natively standardized "filter" when I read English. Yikes, I better look for better - I don't want to be the cause of someone else's error... Do you have a favorite go-to source for formal templates and whatnot?
    – Bea Bonmot
    May 25, 2016 at 14:51

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