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WSJ on the Death of “Dear”

If you are interested in greetings for emails and letters, check out today's article in The Wall Street Journal titled "Hey, Folks: Here's a Digital Requiem For a Dearly Departed Salutation: Writers of Emails and Texts Find a Too-Tender Greeting a Comedy of Manners." (Now that is an engaging title!) The article appears online and on page one of the print version in the United States.

I am pleased to mention that I am quoted in the article.


Syntax Training

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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.

7 comments on “WSJ on the Death of “Dear””

  • I use always use “Good Morning,” or “Good Afternoon,” when composing an email message. I am in an upper management position with a company formed through a franchise system. Even though I am on very familiar terms with the individuals at my corporate office, I always open my communications with a greeting of well wishes. I always attach my email signature which ends in “At Your Service,” rather than “Sincerely,” which may be too formal or just “~T” which is the exact opposite. And, due to the fact that I am one of more than three hundred franchises in North America, my signature includes my contact information so as not to waste the time of anyone trying to reply using other means than email. I hope that shooting for efficiency satisfies the need for my communication to be both professional and human.

  • Hi, Tera. Thank you for sharing your approach to email openings and closings. “At your service” is very unusual–I like it.

    I avoid “Good morning” and “Good afternoon” because I don’t know when people will read my message. Also, I write to people on the other side of the world, so my morning may be their bedtime. However, it sounds as though you write to people in your office, and you are probably aware of their email reading habits.

    Best of luck,


  • Aren’t all people dear? I’ve always thought of the use of ‘dear’ as a way to acknowledge the inherent ‘dear’ value of a human being regardless of how well the writer knows the recipient.

  • Mildly off topic, but this reminds me of something I’ve always wondered: What ever happened to the use of the greeting, “How do you do?” When and why did it fall out of common use?

  • Hi, Patty. Thank you for the helpful reminder about the inherent preciousness of each human being.

    I have never seen “How do you do?” in writing, but I have heard it spoken. I do not know why it has fallen out of use, at least in our circles.


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