“Dear John” Letters at Work

Posted on January 2, 2007. Filed under: Blog--All categories, Technical writing |

“Is it okay to address an email or letter to ‘Dear John’?” When I heard this question from a client recently, I was flummoxed. Why is this question being asked, I wondered. But then the client explained: “When I have to write to someone named John, I feel weird addressing him as ‘Dear John’ because it’s like writing a break-up letter.” Okay, now I get it!

Yes, it is rather funny to write Dear John when you think about it in terms of a Dear-John letter. Nonetheless, the guy’s name is John; so what can you do? In our informal culture today–and especially in an email–you could always write “Hi John” rather than Dear John. or perhaps just start with “John,” and leave the Dear off. Either way would be appropriate. Another option? Just enjoy the chuckle.

Along the same vein, another client in the same meeting said, “I feel the same way when I have to write to someone named Jean (or Gene). It’s weird writing ‘Hi Jean.'” Okay, this one is MUCH funnier when said out loud. Say “Hi Jean” out loud. What do you hear? Hygiene! Yes, that does sound odd. To solve this you could write “Hello, Jean” or “Dear Jean” and the problem would be solved.

However, it’s always okay just to enjoy a private chuckle and move on rather than try to finagle your way around writing a “Dear John” or a “Hygiene” letter. Besides, we need more humor in the workplace.


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