Thank goodness it’s all out in the open. The great How-The- Heck- Do- You- Address- Someone- In- An- Email debate has finally been unleashed. Here’s the issue: you’ve never spoken or contacted the person you are emailing before – so how do you start the missive? Should it be Dear John Smith, or Dear Mr Smith, or Dear John, or Hi John, or just Hi?

US Congressman Ed Markey has raised a few hackles this week when he sent an email to a group of journalists with Hey Folks as his chosen salutation. The Wall Street Journal was not the only publication to comment on the off-key tone of the greeting.

Now everyone from self-styled etiquette experts to, well, anyone who needs a bit of personal PR right now, is jumping on the bandwagon with their version of what’s right and proper when it comes to email.

The consensus seems to be that Dear Sir or Dear Madam is too formal for this electronic, instant messaging world, but that Hey Folks is something that the barbecue man might shout at a barn dance when the sausages were ready. Probably not quite the right term, therefore, for addressing the cream of the Washington press corps.

So where does this debate leave us? Dear John Smith is clumsy, isn’t it? And, actually, when it comes down to it, what’s wrong with Dear Mr Smith, in a business context, if you don’t know him from Adam?

As for signing off an email, should it be Regards, Kind Regards, Best Wishes or Yours Sincerely? Before we tackle that thorny issue too, we offer a quick recap on the great Yours Sincerely or Yours Faithfully dilemma. Dear Sir (or Madam) always gets a Yours Faithfully; Dear Mr Smith cops a Yours Sincerely. Voila.

OK then, what’s the best formal sign off for an email? Regards sound a bit curt, as if you are cross with your correspondent. But Kind Regards… well I, don’t know… it’s a bit naff, don’t you think? What’s wrong with Best Wishes? It sounds rather cheerful and warm. And maybe we need a bit more of that in this world.

Hey Folks! All thoughts and comments welcome!

Want to know more?

Get in touch

We’d love to hear about your business challenges and talk about how we can help solve them.