When you write an email, do you include a salutation?
You know, the “Dear John,” or even something as simple as a person’s name at the top.
This made me realize that, most of the time, I don’t bother starting my emails with names at all. I usually just jump right into the meat of the message.
I addressed this back in 2008, when I pointed out that a standard email has pretty much the same format as an old-school standard memo.
…followed by the text of the memo.
The thing is … these days, most people don’t use old-school memos, or worry about proper formatting for almost anything.
Then, also, since email is so common, a lot of people don’t seem to pay attention to much of anything other than the body of it. (How many email “conversations” have you been copied on that ended up talking about a topic totally unrelated to the one in the Subject line because nobody was paying the least bit of attention to what it said?
Of course, there’s the option of the email signature to add complexity. If you use a standardized signature that spells out your name, your title, your business, your website, and so on, well … it seems almost silly to have the proper end of a letter format (i.e., your name) but not the beginning where you actually address the person to whom you’re writing.
Not to mention that it can seem rude jumping right into the conversation without some kind of polite start. You wouldn’t call someone and snap out “We need to change the first paragraph” the moment the phone is answered. (Or, I hope you wouldn’t.) You’d at least say hello first, or “This is Deb,” or “About that article we were talking about.” Something to get the person at the other end into the right frame of mind for what you were calling about.
All of which kind of means I’ve been doing my emails wrong all these years, huh?
What do you think? Do emails work like memos, which formally do not have salutations? Or are they more like letters, which do?