I am somewhat sensitive to politeness and basic rules of courtesy, so (almost) all the e-mails that I write contain greetings and salutations, such as:

Dear Jane,



I've noticed recently that a lot of e-mails that I receive, from colleagues or other people, start with:



I am a little surprised by this. What happened to the "Dear" (or at least "Hi")?

This does not look like an actual greeting to me, and it sounds a little dismissive. But maybe this is because I am not a native English speaker (in my native French language, I don't think such a letter opening would be considered appropriate).

Am I correctly put off by this? Or should I get on board with (it seems) everyone else and drop the "Dear"?

  • 5
    @HotLicks Very witty--but sarcasm is the poor man's wit. The usage of "Dear" is conventional, and as such it does not need to be taken literally (except by sarcastic dimwits).
    – Seub
    Mar 19, 2018 at 17:46
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    My point is that it depends on the context. If you are texting your coworker in the next cube then "Dear" is a bit excessive. If you are emailing a correspondent who you do not deal with on a daily basis then "Dear" may be appropriate.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 19, 2018 at 18:12
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    As a native American english speaker, I agree with you that it sounds dismissive just to use someone's name without at least a "Hi" or "Hey". So, subjectively, I agree that you're correct in being put off by it.
    – spacetyper
    Mar 19, 2018 at 20:40
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    @jtheletter Why say hello to someone when you meet them, when it’s nearly almost obvious from eye contact, surroundings and other factors that you’re talking directly to them? Mar 19, 2018 at 22:35
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    I agree with both you and @spacetyper. Simply stating someone’s name is not greeting them—it’s addressing them, and it comes off as quite dismissive and scolding. If I received an e-mail that started off with just my name, I would expect not to like the contents of that e-mail. It’s bound to be something I did wrong. I tend to find “Dear ___” a bit formal for someone I know and/or frequently correspond with; “Hey ___” is more natural to me there. But even to very close friends, I’d never use just the name on its own. Mar 19, 2018 at 22:40

3 Answers 3


Unlike the well-established norms of traditional epistolary correspondence, there is no single standard way to write an e-mail regardless of the level of familiarity or distance, formality or informality intended, in the English-speaking world. An e-mail chain can be an asynchronous exchange of long form prose, as with a traditional letter or memorandum; in other cases, it can be almost indistinguishable from SMS or instant messaging, with replies consisting of a short sentence fragment or merely a hyperlink or attachment. None of these is "doing it wrong." What is appropriate is dependent mainly on the expectations of the correspondents, not on the structure of the correspondence.

In business exchanges with peers, in fact, I tend to omit any salutation or other "header" information— the recipient already knows who sent the message and when, and how to reply. I'm not the only one; see e.g. Is a salutation necessary in an email to an unknown person?; Appropriate start of Email except Dear/Hi; or Are greetings and salutations redundant in an e-mail?


Most of the emails I receive do not use Dear, although as noted in my comment all letters that I received do use Dear. emails tend to start with 'Jeremy' if they are from people who email me frequently, and with 'Dear Jeremy' or 'Dear [family name]' if they do not.

I think that the absence of Dear in emails is comparable to the language used in pre-email days in internal office memos. (But not in all: where I used to work 30 years ago, internal memos began with, for example, 'Mr Smith' and ended with the sender's name as [given name, family name]. I once received a letter in which I was addressed as Mr, with a postscript apologising because what had been dictated as a memo had been typed as a letter, in which I should have been addressed 'Dear Jeremy'.

It is a matter of etiquette and etiquette is notoriously variable with time, place, and other people.

To answer your direct question, I really can't see why anyone should object to your using 'Dear' if you want to.


It totally depends on how formal the working environment is. I know some people who insists on being spoken to on a first name basis only (even in a formal work/academia setting).

If you prefer using "dear" (which I do too), I'd suggest you use dear as a general rule. If people don't like it (or you get that impression), just ask them (if they haven't told you already), then you can always tutoyer them (and just them).

This rule works both ways, if you keep getting emails which you think are rude, tell the sender(s). They will probably explain why they do it, which can be one of two things: laziness and convenience or because they like a relaxed work environment. The first case can be solved easily by setting standard email headers and footers (so they only have to type the body when sending an email). The second case needs compromise, you will have to agree with your colleague(s) what you think is appropriate.

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