Tag Archives: punctuation

The Conversational Salutation Syndrome

Hi Gerald,

is not correct.  

Hi, Gerald.

is.  

Then why is it that almost everyone begins his or her e-mails with the former, incorrect salutation?  I’m guessing the traditional “Dear Gerald,” morphed into the more conversational and informal “Hi Gerald,” but it bothers me so much that i’m forced to use it when i know it’s incorrect.  I’ve seen two people opt for the “Hi, Gerald,” format, which i think is better but wrong nonetheless.  I’ve also seen two people opt for “Hi, Gerald.” which makes me really happy to see.  Ironically enough, one of those two people is my father, who, as a first-generation immigrant, speaks fairly good but limited English.  He can only understand simply constructed sentences, but his punctuation is better than the average American’s.  The English he learned in high school and college in South Korea was the proper English, with the proper punctuation and grammar.  A native English-speaker’s English is shaped by contemporary cultural and social influences, not the least of which is the Internet.  I’m sure the Conversational Salutation Syndrome, or so i like to call this little problem of ours, also has to do with how the Internet has changed our use of language.  

As for me, i resort to using the incorrectly punctuated conversational salutation because it almost seems silly to write “Dear Gerald,” which, in today’s world, sounds stuffy and too formal, like the kind of greeting you’d see on a credit card bill.  I have considered using the period to end the greeting, but then would i continue writing in the same paragraph or in a new one?  Both would look a bit odd:

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