mourning the death of salutations
Recently on Twitter I made the following observation:
I wish people wouldn’t forget salutations. So many emails & IMs burst at me with information, without a polite Dear; Hello; or Good Morning.
And I followed it up with
It’s like someone rushing into your house and firing a question at you, without first saying hello. I find it disconcerting.
I understand why this has happened. Text messages and IMs have much to do with it. Text messages are limited to 140 characters so dropping even an economical ‘Hi’ makes sense. Most people have smartphones containing all the names and photos of their contacts now, so the majority of the time we know the originators and recipients of our texts.
However, this word frugality has shifted into IMs, where people abruptly begin conversations with me as if we were already mid tête-à-tête.
Again, it’s the shorthand of the age, so I can get with the programme. I’m far less likely to be jarred by being thrown headlong into a conversation if there are multiple parties in the mix, although I always think a little ice-breaker like a ‘hello everyone’ doesn’t do any harm.
What I find most discomforting is how these practices have translated into email. To my mind email is the modern version of the letter, and should being with a simple salutation – as formal as informal as the relationship to the person you are addressing. After the initial exchange I see no issue in dropping the salutation if the thread of discussion continues. You don’t keep saying hi to someone each time you make a comment if you are already in mid-conversation.
These days I’m receiving emails from people with lines of information without a basic hello. People – who sometimes I don’t know at all – ask me questions or favours without even addressing me first.
I’m not one for elaborate etiquette. Someone always had to invent it at some point, and the more rigorous versions are usually employed to ensure everyone knows their station – an attitude I find abhorrent.
Yet, I suspect back before the written word, when hand signals and simple spoken words were how we first communicated, one of the most employed was ‘Hello’.
It’s not about protocol, it’s about taking a moment to acknowledge the person to whom you are speaking, before launching into your discourse.
So, please, could people take a breath before hammering their friends and acquaintances with their vital online messages.
We have not reached the singularity yet. We remain separate individuals, each deserving of being hailed properly.
(And to pre-empt some of my good friends or colleagues: dropping a salutation is hardly an egregious offence when our relationship is friendly, robust, and well established.)
(And to pre-empt again – commenting on blog posts or social media entries doesn’t require a salutation as far as I’m concerned.)