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October 15, 2014


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Lynn, maybe you can help me get a grip on a salutation that makes me cringe. Some business associates - especially younger people - use "Hey, Laura" in their email greetings to me. My grandmother lived in our home when I was growing up, and if we ever said, "Hey, Grandma," she would respond, "Hay is for horses." So we learned not to do it. Now I find the word overly familiar in a business setting, perhaps even bordering on rude. I know I need to get over this and take it in the spirit in which it was meant, but I still cringe. Your thoughts?

Bob VL

Hi Lynn:

In Business Writing class many years ago, we were taught to use the colon in the salutation. It is especially pertinent in business letters. Also, I like the close ending with a period. Is a comma, or a period, acceptable here?

Best Regards.
Bob VL

Lisa Mutchler

Laura, I'm just chiming in here regarding your concerns about younger business associates using "Hey Laura" as an email greeting to you. As a twenty-something in business, I definitely don't think this should be taken as rude at all- they most likely consider it a synonym for "hi" in this context. However, if you are in a management or leadership role and those under your leadership address you (or others one or more levels above them) with "Hey", I do think it would be appropriate to mention to them at some point that this isn't really a professional greeting.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi Laura and Lisa,

I have learned to accept "Hey" as an informal greeting despite being taught the "Hay is for horses" lesson. I suggest recognizing that different generations have learned different lessons and accepting "Hey" as a friendly greeting. Laura, you might think of younger employees as people from another country, who do things differently. Decide that their way is different, not worse--to avoid cringing and start grinning.

At the same time, I agree with you, Lisa, that supervisors should coach employees to write for their readers. They should note that "Hey" seems too informal to many people. Also, supervisors can set standards for writing to customers, clients, senior executives, and others.

I have been writing this blog for nine years. I find myself in the position of needing to update old posts. Things that seemed unacceptable then are now well entrenched.

Thanks for commenting!


Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi Bob,

"Many years ago" people wrote only letters and memos--not emails, texts, etc. The colon was the only mark to follow a greeting. Today the colon is still correct for business letters, but commas are often used after the greetings in emails.

I have never seen--and my style guides don't support--using a period after the complimentary close. I have a style guide from 1914, 100 years ago, that states "The proper punctation at the end [of a close] is a comma."

I recommend reserving the period for the mark after the last sentence. Then use a comma with the complimentary close.

Thanks for stopping by!



I've never had Business writing classes :( ...Thanks for let me learning

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

I am glad to be helpful.



Thank you for your helpful website. I use it often.

I have a question about email salutations.

When sending a business email, I typically format the salutation using the recipient’s first name followed by a colon (i.e. “Jane:”). Is that acceptable?

If not, why is it acceptable to omit “Dear” and use a comma (e.g. “Jane,”) in the salutation of a personal email, but not acceptable to omit “Dear” and use a colon in a business email (to colleagues)?

Thanks, in advance, for your help.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi Mike,

The problem with "Jane:" is that it may come across as abrupt. It doesn't communicate positive feeling.

"Jane" followed by a comma feels a bit warmer. A comma comes across as less formal than a colon.

Names on the screen do not convey tone, so readers bring their own interpretations to your greeting. When Jane sees her name followed by a colon at the beginning of an email, she may anticipate a stern message--even if you are congratulating her.

Compare these:


Hi Jane,

Good morning, Jane!

I like to use a greeting such as "Hi" or "Hello." Sometimes I skip the greeting and use the person's name at the beginning of my opening sentence, like this:

Claire, thanks for your question.

The opening sentence, rather than a greeting, communicates my positive intent.

Mike, I hope those ideas help you.




Is it acceptable to use this as an email introduction?

Hi, Lynn:

I appreciate you blog.



Hi, Lynn:

I appreciate your blog.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hello Raquel,

Normally we do not use a colon after a greeting such as "Hi" or "Hello."

I recommend using the format I showed above.


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