When To Use Time Sensitive Salutations [Etiquette Mistakes]

by Mary Cullen on Sun, Nov 20, 2016

time sensitive salutations


Two participants in our Effective Business Writing course recently questioned why using “Good Evening” was not best practice for an email salutation.

We always want to engage our reader, and shape any document, including email, from our reader’s perspective, not our perspective. With email, when the recipient is likely to read the email is more relevant than when we send it.

Good Evening Email Etiquette

For example, if you work in London and send an email off at 9:00 P.M. to a colleague or customer in Los Angeles, the recipient would receive it 1:00 P.M. Los Angeles time. If the first words your recipient reads are “Good Evening” while he or she sees the sun shining and is midway through the work day, it fosters reader disconnect. If you do not know when your reader is going to read your email message, choose a time-neutral salutation: Dear, Hello, Hi – choosing whichever best matches the relationship and purpose of your email. (More on appropriate business email salutions.)

Using the salutation “Good Morning” can be particularly warm and engaging, if you are certain your reader will receive your message in the morning.

For example, you have a phone conversation with your reader in the morning (reader time zone), and promise to email a document right after you conclude the call. In this case, “Good Morning” is a great salutation because it enhances the connection because it is immediate and warm and reader-focused.

This same thought process should apply to description of your activities. My friend, based in Seattle, recently shared that she was momentarily concerned when her colleague, based in Glasgow, sent an email to her that began “I’m savoring a single malt and reading your proposal…” It was 6:00 P.M. in Glasgow, so a single malt was well deserved and in order, but it was a little jarring at first read for my friend in Seattle, who was sipping morning coffee at 10:00 A.M. Of course, any reader will understand with brief reflection, but we don’t want to require reflection or questioning. We want to engage our readers right away. Reader-focused writing requires that we keep content, organization and tone on our reader, not on our own thoughts.

Good Night

Use “Good Morning” and “Good Night” with care – they are engaging when you know your reader will read them at the right time, but will wedge an intimation of lack of awareness for your reader if you miss the time mark.

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Topics: Business Writing Style

Mary Cullen

About the author

Mary Cullen

Mary founded Instructional Solutions in 1998, and is an internationally recognized business writing trainer and executive writing coach with two decades of experience helping thousands of individuals and businesses master the strategic skill of business writing. She excels at designing customized business writing training programs to maximize productivity, advance business objectives, and convey complex information. She holds a B.A in English from the University of Rhode Island, a M.A in English Literature from Boston College, and a C.A.G.S. in Composition and Rhetoric from the University of New Hampshire.

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