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Hey, Reader!

Hey, Everybody! Today Kirk wrote with a question many people wonder about:

I have a senior employee who begins every email with “Hey,” and it bothers me. Every email starts with “Hey Everyone” or “Hey guys” or “Hey Kirk.” It seems friendly but slightly unprofessional, especially when the emails are sent to top management.

It seems to me that using “Hey” is okay in some cases such as “Hey guys–let’s go to lunch Friday.” But it’s not okay when you write professional or technical business emails, especially to your superiors or those who don’t know you personally.

Hey, what do you think?

I agree with Kirk. “Hey” is okay as a very informal greeting. When someone writes, “Hey, Lynn,” I expect it to be a close friend.

But “Hey” is not a greeting for anything but the most informal exchange.

The question then is this: What is an appropriate greeting?

I recommend these:

Hi, Kirk. Hi, Team. (friendly, slightly informal)
Hello, Kirk. Hello, HR Group. (professional)
Dear Kirk, Dear Team Members, (professional, formal)
Dear Kirk: Dear Team Members: (professional, more formal)
Greetings, Kirk. Greetings, Finance Team. (professional)
Kirk, I am writing to . . . . Team members, I am writing to . . . . (professional)

Some people also like “Good morning” and “Good afternoon.” But since we can’t know when someone will read our message, I usually avoid a greeting that refers to the time of day.

The other day someone told me she hates it when employees at her bank say “I’ll go grab so-and-so for you.” She hates the word grab used for people. Similarly, some people will dislike “Hey,” which may seem like being yelled at.

I have written more about greetings in letters and email. Try here.

Hey, Kirk. Thanks for your question.


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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.