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August 07, 2007


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Christine Martell

Very helpful post. I know I don't want to make mistakes, and sometimes it can feel very confusing knowing what to do. Asking and not assuming are simple responses that can make all the difference.

I have lived around the country, and there absolutely are regional differences. I have always found people who are willing to help me understand the particulars of a culture or area. I don't assume everyone wants to talk about these things, and honor a 'no' if someone isn't comfortable. I have found that most people want to help out.


Christine, your comment reminded me of a time I led a seminar in South Carolina. When the attendees addressed me as "Miss Lynn," I thought at first they were teasing me. I soon learned, though, that it was a normal respectful greeting.

Thanks for commenting.

Robin Yim

Interesting post. In my professional setting, I use people's first names. I guess I tend to avoid the opportunity to offend. But, perhaps, that might offend, too. I do like the idea of asking someone how they would like to be addressed. Works for either gender.


I would say names are normally the best way to address people. But when one is writing to, let's say, five or more people, a group greeting is probably more workable.

Margaret Elwood

http://www.annmedlock.com/news/index.htm contains an excellent and related post dated August 1, 2007, entitled "R-E-S-P-E-C-T". Enjoy!


Margaret, thanks for the link. I enjoyed reading the August 1 post.

As for R-E-S-P-E-C-T, I find it much more natural to give it to people rather than institutions or buildings. For example, I would not wear flipflops to your house if I were visiting you and knew you didn't like them, but I would wear them to the White House. That's because I would not be making a personal visit. There would be no one to offend--or would there?

In any case, thanks for the thought-provoking read.



I am an junior executive at a large consulting firm. I addressed an email the other day, titled "hi Ladies" to a group of women and was REAMED by another female executive for doing so. I live on the liberal west coast, have lived in nyc and have NEVER, EVER, encountered anyone so irritated by this term before. I will no longer address my emails with anything... will just be like the rest of the world and start all emails with the content.


I think "women" is the best term, and "girls" is the worst. "Women" is neutral, "ladies" is similar to "women," and "girls" can be patronizing. I say go for "women" when in doubt for a formal necessity.


I have been challenged recently when discussing a focus group for women, when feeding back I referred to the comments from the 'ladies' and was immediately told off by several people at the meeting. One said women do not like being called 'ladies' as its patronizing. I asked because I often work with mixed groups, when wishing to gain their attention is 'ladies and gentlement' not acceptable and if not what is the alternative. Male and female seems incorrect, as does men and women. I am told addressing a group as 'guys' is not advisable too... So how do I gain attention from a group, I am asking to come back to the centre of the group after splitting off to do skills practice with other group members???

Business Writing Blog

Hi, Tracy. You might ring a little bell or strike a gong or flash the lights. But then someone would say they don't like responding to bells, gongs, or flashing lights.

I never find myself using "Ladies and Gentlemen" in a group. More likely terms are "Everyone," "Everybody," and "Team." I also use no term and say simply, "Okay, let's move back to our regular places."

I am sorry people jumped on you for your use of "ladies." Perhaps they were trying to convey that focus group attendees are referred to as "women."



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