“I Hope You’re Well” as an Email Opener

On Saturday The New York Times ran a humorous column "I Hope You're Well," by Kerry Elson. In case you are unable to access The New York Times online, here are two opening exchanges from the piece:

*********************

Hi, Robin,

I hope you’re well. I can’t seem to find the attachment. Please re-send.

All the best,

Laura

 

Dear Laura,

I hope you’re well, too. Thank you for checking on my wellness — wellness has been on my mind. What are the chances that two associates at Sullivan & Partners are thinking about wellness at the same time? Lately I’ve been pondering my spiritual wellness. Sometimes I wonder, “What is my purpose?” The thought is overwhelming. Here’s the attachment.

Cheers,

Robin

***************

 

Hey, Matt,

I hope you’re doing well. Please let me know if the PowerPoint is ready.

Regards,

Sasha

 

Hi, Sasha,

I am well, thanks to my homemade spirulina snack balls. I didn’t realize you also were into alternative medicine! I thought I was the only one at Cromwell Consulting who was seeking a more proactive approach to health. I feel that the medical establishment is so focused on disease. Here is the PowerPoint.

In solidarity,

Matt

*********

The piece contains three more clever email exchanges, ending with one in which the writer does not ask about the other person's wellness. You can guess what the outcome is.  

Other than a teaser after the title ("Is it possible to send an email anymore without this phrase?"), there's no other content in Kerry Elson's column–just those funny exchanges. But the point is clear. Do we need to address the other person's wellness if all we want is something simple, like access to an attachment? 

I almost never address "wellness" in my work emails, but I decided to see how I communicate the right degree of friendliness. I just checked my last few work emails and have included the openings and closings below. You will recognize my brief efforts to communicate warmth.

 

Message 1 beginning:

    Hi Sherri, (a potential client)

    Thank you for the question. 

Message 1 ending:

    If you have any other questions, just let me know.

 

Message 2 beginning:

    Hi Kim, (a client) 

    You have an interesting situation. 

Message 2 closing:

    Best wishes, 

 

Message 3 beginning:

    Hi Heather, (our webmaster) 

    We are having trouble with our table weight shipping. 

Message 3 close:

    Thank you! 

 

Message 4 beginning:

    Hi Samantha, (a fellow association member)

    As part of the XXXXX survey, I would like to schedule a short phone call with you. 

Message 4 close:

    Thanks! I look forward to your input.

 

Message 5 beginning:

    Hi Elizabeth, 

    Thank you for ordering Business Writing With Heart.

Message 5 close:

    Again, thank you very much for your order!

    Best wishes,

 

Check your emails. How do you communicate warmth, friendliness, respect, or a hint of your humanity? Please share what you find, along with any relevant rules you have for email etiquette. 

Back in 2012 I wrote a blog post on openings for international emails, "Opening Sentences for Global Email." You will see that I do recommend warm openings (including about "wellness") when communicating around the globe. 

Lynn 
Syntax Training

11 COMMENTS

  1. I always used to end my emails to coworkers (to whom I am giving feedback) thus: “Please let me know if you have any questions or issues.” Recently, I have dropped the “or issues” part, thinking that is just so much psycho-babble and surely bound to open a can or worms. I more and more find I don’t want to talk about issues at work!

  2. Instead of writing “I hope you are well.”, I prefer to write “I hope all is well.” This seems broader in scope to encompass both work and home!

    Also, I don’t think it’s a good idea to write a paragraph or several sentences if someone writes me and mentions he or she hopes I am well. I would tend to keep my reply very brief about being well. Otherwise, it can be too much email back and forth.

    To make my emails a bit warmer and friendlier, sometimes my closing will be “Kind regards,” especially to outside stakeholders of my organization. Another way is to use exclamation points, e.g., “Thank you!” rather than “Thank you.”

  3. If I feel that I need to open with a preface before jumping into the main point, particularly if it’s someone with whom I’ve not communicated in awhile, I now tend to open with “Hope your week is going well” or “Hope your week has been enjoyable,” instead of allowing the topic of “wellness” to concern them personally. I also tend to close with “Enjoy your week,” “Enjoy the weekend,” or “Look forward to seeing you next week” if we have a scheduled appointment.

  4. “Issue” has always been a problem word for me. Issue means an important topic or problem for debate or discussion and seems officious when used in business.

    When someone says “I have an issue with that…” I immediately get defensive – here comes an argument.

  5. Hi Renata,

    “I hope all is well” is a good alternative, and I like your ideas for the closing. Regarding the detailed replies that Kerry Elson wrote, they were intended to be extreme and funny. I agree that detailing one’s “wellness” is not a good idea.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    Lynn

  6. Excellent post and yes, I have received (and maybe sent!) even text messages related to ‘hope you are well’. (Did you know linked finishes it for you after ‘I hope. . .’ ?

    To convey warmth to people I know quite well, even in a business setting, sometimes I simply close with this:

    Warmly,

    Joanne

    Otherwise it’s “Kind regards or Best regards or ‘Cheers!’ .

  7. I am often either trying to ‘get’ someone to do something after the 3rd or 4th request, so at times it’s hard to remain sensible, much less warm and friendly. Nonetheless, I usually close with this: “please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions you may have”.

  8. Hi Jennifer,

    Yes, it’s a challenge to stay friendly rather than frosty after several requests. I’ve been there.

    I’d like to suggest that you shorten that closing sentence, “Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions you may have.” You could eliminate a negative and a few unnecessary words.

    I appreciate your comments.

    Lynn

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