Let’s say your name is Chris, and you just received an email that begins with this sentence:
Chris, please inform everyone in your group of this policy on parking validation.
Do you think that is rude as an opening sentence?
Today several people in a business writing seminar in Vancouver, British Columbia, thought it was rude. They believed the email should begin with a greeting such as “Hi, Chris.” They also suggested that the sentence be written “Would you please . . . ” rather than just “Please.”
I defended the sentence. After all, I reasoned, it used the person’s name, and it did say “Please.” Yes, I thought the sentence was fine–probably because I had written it.
A few months ago a similar discussion took place in a law firm in Seattle, Washington. But in that seminar, the view was the opposite: Attendees said that using a greeting or someone’s name was unnecessary. To them, it made more sense to just start with “Please inform . . .” They asked, “Why use someone’s name?”
Because some like it nice.
Some people thrive on a warm greeting and generous servings of “Would you please,” “I would appreciate,” and “Thanks!” Others are fine as long as you say “please” and spell their name correctly if you use it. Still others say “You don’t need to butter me up. Just get to the point.”
It’s about style differences. I explained to my Canadian friends that I do not mean to be rude and neither do other people who use the “Chris, please . . .” approach. They explained that my way sounds rude without a warmer greeting. We both heard each other. They agreed to consider my approach as a style difference rather than rudeness. I agreed to say “Would you please” and consider a “Hi” at the beginning of the message.
If you receive email or memos from someone who seems rude or too nice, remember: Some like it nice. So be nice about accepting differences, and consider adapting your own style. Maybe you can add a little sweetness. Or maybe you can eliminate some smiley faces or the multiple exclamations points on “Thanks!!!”
If we are all flexible about style differences, the world will be a nicer place.