LAST week I received an email at work beginning “Hey there”. It was about a fundraising event to raise money for mental health charities, inspired by the death of a musician who is believed to have taken his own life.

Is “hey there” an inappropriate way to begin such an email? I think not. It’s the sort of greeting that I’d expect to see on texts between teenagers, but not on an email between adults, especially about a sensitive subject. The sender had not even signed off with his name, there was simply an initial, as though I knew him well.

I can’t imagine sending an email to someone I had never met, and signing off “H”, as though I were an undercover Mr Big in the TV show Line of Duty.

It’s not the first time I have had emails with overly-chummy greetings. “Hiya Helen” is a common one, more often than not followed by an exclamation mark. This verbal back-slapping is, to me, far too casual.

My feelings, I am sure, are a generational thing. I was raised in a world without email, where we were taught to write letters beginning

with the word “Dear” and ending “Yours sincerely” or “faithfully”, depending upon whether you knew their name.

Back then it was case of addressing someone in a businesslike way or a more personal, friendly manner. There was no in-between.

If you applied for a job and introduced yourself with the now commonly used “Hi”, your application form would have found its way into the bin.

Now “Hi” is widely recommended as one of the best ways to begin an email, whether formal or informal. If we are no long using “Dear” - which is seen by many as stuffy - what’s wrong with plain old “Hello”?

I tend to stick to hello, although anyone born later than 1990 probably thinks that’s boring.

I am pleased to note, though, that “good morning” and “good afternoon” are still popular introductions to emails.

My generation was raised to address people whose names you did not know as Sir or Madam, which is also now seen as too stiff. First names are now the norm, maybe with a smiley face thrown in.

I never know how to respond to an emoji, which are totally alien to people my age, though clearly not to younger generations - a study found that receiving them can make young people happier at work. In a study involving staff and students, Dr Ben Marder of the University of Edinburgh found that using smiley faces brought a more favourable response.

“Although there is a very small drop in the perceived competence of a staff member if they use smileys, this is outweighed by the warmth they give off,” Dr Marder concludes, adding that mixing emojis with normal messages will soon become more widespread.

He adds: “We tested it in general emails…and my impression is that it is suitable in the vast majority of communication situations.”

So, then, it’s only a matter of time before I receive an email beginning: ‘Yo, Hel…’ followed a message peppered with grinning yellow


I think jokey symbols should be confined to messages between friends. I can’t think of any situation in which I would stick one on a formal email. Marder’s study acknowledges that using a winking face is not a good idea - at least that’s a small step towards preserving our dignity.

Electronic messaging has brought about a new language of snappy acronyms and cryptic abbreviations. But they still convey what sort of person you are.

So anyone receiving an email from me will quickly deduce that I’m the wrong side of 55, old-fashioned, and probably not worth replying to.