I spent a good hour emailing people last night for my current Graphics Project – to retell “The Emperors New Clothes” in a visual language. One of my favourite ideas was to hone in on the ‘pride’ and ‘influence’ themes. I thought a good parody for this was cosmetic/plastic surgery and how celebrities have fuelled the industry. At present I am looking at low cost ‘gossip’ magazines and how they obsess over ‘celebrities’ – what they wear, say and have ‘had done’ in terms of surgery. I wanted to look at subscription packs in particular because they would try to persuade the person why they should buy this magazine. They would try to influence the person to think like they do and believe that they indeed should think this.
So…I emailed lots of magazines, briefly told them what I was doing and asked if they could simply send me a subscription form for their magazine. I am starting to think i perhaps should have pretended I genuinely wanted to subscribe as I have not heard anything back yet…
Anyway, whilst writing the email I started with “Dear” followed by the very formal “Sir/Madame” – all very PC. It occurred to me that in some cases I was emailing a specific person eg. firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Should I write Dear Amanda…? hmm, but I don’t know her…is that okay? am I being too presumptuous? forward?
(I normally wait till the person has replied to me and I know who I am talking to)
Should I just put Dear Madame? hmm, but what if she doesn’t answer her emails, what if someone else handles her press?
Should I be writing Dear at all ? Am I getting all mixed up with the Madame thing when actually I should just be saying hello?
Yes Hello, thats good. Not as informal as the ‘hi’ but not as formal as the ‘Dear’
Wait…would the people at Hello magazine think I was making fun of them?
Should I say nothing and just launch in?
Oh gosh no! That would be awful!
If I did that they know that my head and I are having this ridiculous deliberation and think that I am talking myself out of the principles of letter writing I was taught in school? Would this show that I really am unversed in the procedures of modern letter writing…
But this isn’t a letter. It’s an email. Hmm the functions the same though. Isn’t it? Do function and medium correlate in the realms of written communication?
AAAAAHHHHHHHHH. I don’t know what to do.
Dear Sir/Madame. Yes. That’s the best. Mrs Curry always said ‘Dear Sir/Madame’ is a faithful first letter’
Yes. That’s it. Done. Dusted.*
This dialogue with myself last night was brought to light again today when I read this article by James Morgan on the BBC website: www.bbc.co.uk/news. Apparently (according to its detractors) ‘Dear’ is on the way out; it’s “too intimate”and “cold’. Intimately cold…theres an oxymoron and a half. Sounds like the character trait of a serial killer. After reading the entire article I am still, in no way, any more certain of my Introduction dilemma. I agree with English teacherKatie Craigs point “address your reader as you would in the context with which you are replacing the e-mail”. For example when I email my friends with the trailer for a new film, I possibly wouldn’t even say hi, I would just say “oh my gosh watch this, we need to go see it”.
So, my email you could say was replacing a letter or actually, now that I think about it, a telephone call. I wouldn’t say “Dear” in phone call, I would say “hello” so I actually should have used “hello”, according to Kate. The article also included suggestions from other people though…
If I were to listen to etiquette teacher, Jean Broke-Smith however, my decision to go with the “Dear” was correct. I do not know the person and so this is me presenting myself to their business. There is however no mention of “Sir/Madame” in the entire article so I am still undecidedly confused as to this point. Whilst I agree that it does sound very outdated I cannot shake the fact that I was brought up with it – it’s standard letter writing!
This reminds me of the classic “faithfully/sincerely” rule and Mrs Curry’s ‘faithful first letter’. Maybe I am being too conservative but I like that rule! I like having a standard, acceptable ‘starting point’ which, I can deviate from if I choose to. That’s when judgements come in though isn’t it? Deviations. The manner in which the person deviates e.g saying “Hi” could cause offence to someone such as Jean Broke-Smith. They feel uncomfortable because they only associate the address with say a very close friend. Similar to nicknames I guess you could say. Hey Jeanny…
I guess it all depends on character, how proper and detailed you like to be and how polite you are. The only thing less graceful than an informal address is the correction of it.
Anyway, I am rambling. To sum up: I would very much like there to be an EMAIL RULE OF ADDRESS, if such a thing exists please someone let me know! If not, then I shall perhaps do something about this myself!