April 21: No salutation? Think again!

By · Monday, April 21st, 2014

For the month of April, our blog will be devoted to polishing
your professional skills.
Everything you need to know about courtesy, manners and common sense.
And we do mean “need” to know.


Sadly, salutations seem to have gone by the wayside. By definition, a salutation is a greeting. Here are two examples from yourdictionary.com that are worth remembering:

a. An example of a salutation is when you write “Dear Dean” at the top of a letter

b. An example of a salutation is when you say a formal hello to someone

Salutations are a show of respect, common courtesy and conventional etiquette. Yet, they are rarely used. We could blame technology. Communicating via texting and Twitter has gotten us out of the habit. We could point to email vs. snail mail as a culprit; now that we don’t sign, seal and deliver, we are less formal in our writing. We could simply say that no one expects it anymore. But would that be accurate?

In the interest of maintaining what seems to be a good practice, we share examples of when salutations would be appropriate and, possibly, expected.

  1. Dear, not hey. When you do plan to greet someone in writing, be sure your approach matches the situation. “Hey” is OK with your friends and family. But in many cases, it’s a bit casual. When the dean, a prospective employer, a professional contact or a professor addresses you with “Dear,” then that is a cue to take a more formal approach in your reply. When in doubt or when initiating the contact, choose more formal over less formal. You can’t go wrong.
  2. Public places. Safety concerns sometimes put us in defensive modes in public places, and that is wise; use common sense for the situation at hand. But when passing someone in the hall or riding in an elevator — in places where you work, hope to work (think job interview), go to school or do business of some kind — then the polite thing to do is to make eye contact and smile. When someone “greets” you this way, respond in kind. When someone says “Hello” or “Good morning,” answer with your own greeting. Perhaps you don’t know the person. There’s no harm in sharing a greeting. If you don’t, you might be surprised later to find out that that person knows you, or knows someone who knows you … or … is the very person who will be interviewing you for that job you hope to land.
  3. Personal spaces. Appropriate ways to enter an office, even when dealing with open-door policies: “Excuse me,” “Hello, is this a good time,” “Thank you for seeing me.” What not to do: enter without saying anything; sit without being asked; start out with your question or comment before addressing the person in some way.

Read it. Learn it. Live it.
Be that person.

Comments are closed.