Is ‘Dear’ in the salutation passé?

Has e-mail become so ubiquitous that it has changed the way we craft business correspondence? That’s what admins recently debated on our Admin Pro Forum.

Some suspected that writing “Dear” or “Very truly yours” has become too old-fashioned for digital—or even printed—correspondence.

“Recently, my boss was signing paper letters and asked if it is still proper to write ‘Dear’ in the salutation instead of just the person’s name,” said Naomi. “And for closing, is ‘Sincerely’ and ‘Very Truly Yours’ passé, or is ‘Regards’ OK to use? Are handwritten or typed letters more formal than e-mail?”

A bevy of self-proclaimed “old-school” admins protested.

“Nothing irks me more than receiving a business letter that begins with just my name and ends with ‘Regards,’” wrote one anonymous admin pro. “When sending a professional business letter, it should always start with ‘Dear’ and end with ‘Sincerely’ or ‘Very truly yours.’ I think we are getting too lax in the business world. The boss can always hand write a slash through the professional name and write in ‘Bob’ above it in his own handwriting if he knows him personally.”

As for e-mail correspondence, most agreed that taking a more relaxed tone was OK. Still, signing off with “Regards” rubs some the wrong way.

According to this crowd, the gold standard for correspondence hasn’t changed. Admin Nadine summarized best practices for formal correspondence, whether by e-mail or letter:

Dear Sir or Madam: Use if you don’t know who you are writing to.

Dear Dr., Mr., Mrs., Miss or Ms. Smith: Use if you know who you are writing to and have a formal relationship with. Very important: Use Ms. for women unless asked to use Mrs. or Miss.

Dear Frank: Use if the person is a close business contact or friend.

Yours sincerely: Use if you know the name of the person you’re writing to.

Best wishes, Best regards: Use if the person is a close business contact or friend.