Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Frankly, my dear....

I grew up with the Wren and Martin grammar book. And the dog-eared copy I owned, had small print too. Hard to read, even harder to digest. If you followed the grammar rules, you could get close to 60 per cent in your English examination paper. Which, by the way, was excellent in our time.

The chapter on Letter Writing was as important as the rest.   And we were taught that business communications started with a ‘Dear’ or Sir/madam as the case may be.  But like all things, this too seems to be changing.  The salutations are vanishing.

An article in WSJ aptly titled ‘For a Dearly Departed Salutation’, deals with these issues. It quotes a spokeswoman for a Democrat in the US, who says ‘dear’, is just too intimate and connotes a personal relationship. And she wants to keep her business communications with the press at the utmost and highest level of professionalism. So to communicate an important message from her boss, starts off her  letter with a ‘Hey Folks’

Maybe I am just too old fashioned , but to start off an official communication with a Hey Folks, is not acceptable. I would use Hey to someone I know well enough to be informal!

As it is, letter writing has undergone some changes.  The address at the top of the letter has moved from the right to the left. That is fine by me, but to drop the dear?

Hey, that does not seem right! I wonder if I am in the minority.

(picture - twitter.com)


  1. I am with you on this one. "Hey" is less formal than "Dear" especially in an official letter. But, maybe if instead of "Dear" we had learnt it as "Hey Folks", we wouldn't feel this way. :)

  2. I remember Wren & Martic grammar book! It was so important to keep one, at home, in those days to learn proper English. And then we were asked to read 'The Hindu' for improving our English!

    Not only 'dear', but 'thanking you' also is going now!

    'Hi' is the addressing expression now!

    When thinking about it, 'dear' seems very close to address 'strangers'!

  3. I agree with you about 'Hey folks'. It seems far too familiar to use in the office.

    I regularly used Wren and Martin while in school (in college too for that matter). I used to love the examples given in the book for idioms and figures of speech!

  4. HEYYyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy :) he he hhe yes i am with you, there has to be some difference between the Official and personal.. and Hey does not sound professioal t all.. I still stick to the old times .. when my english teacher taught us how to write application and letters and i rmemeber the spanking we got if we did any mistake ...


  5. Oh Wren and Martin! Absolutely the bible. And the letter writing!! :) And as you say, the writing of letters seems to be a lost art. I still stick to the Dear so-and-so and a 'Greetings!' and end with thanking you, warm regards or sincerely. There are those that will write Hi! and also the 'Hai' that I have discovered people in Chennai write - somewhere between a Hi and a Hey. :)

  6. yes i agree with you
    rules are changing

  7. Things keep changing.Earlier letters ended with yours obedientlu which later changed to yrs faithfully yielding place to yrs truly.Now these have been given the go by.There is a clamour even in courts to drop addressing judges as your honour or lordship.In offices bosses are not addrssed as Sir but by name.
    There need be no uniform way in these matters leaving it to the correspondents to decide whatever they wish based on familiarity.

  8. The English language has undergone a sea change to accommodate / adapt to the growing speakers / users of the language and the changing attitude towards it. Considering that the language was more or less derived from languages such as Greek, Latin & French, it is not surprising to find such casual references that sound strange to people like you and me who are used to the traditional form of letter writing. I personally would use "Dear so & so" with people I know, and add "Mr./Ms" before the names of strangers and with friends it's mostly "Hi/Dear". "Hey folks" in an official communique is totally not acceptable, or is it soon becoming the official thing?!

  9. Good point! I omit the salutation part in business communication. This is strictly on first name basis. There is no personal dynamics here. However, there is always a risk of sounding rude! :|

  10. Long time before he had to write letters for exams in school, my son used to write letters to his grandparents as a very young child, and would always end it with "Yours lovingly,".

    Cut to the time when letter writing became something you wrote for marks. In one exam they were supposed to write some letter to the school principal, explaining some absence and asking to be excused etc. He wrote the respected Sir , the polite excuse and everything, but ended the letter out of habit with "Yours lovingly" ! Although he was excellent at English otherwise, I am sure his teachers had a great laugh over it, as we did too.

    We did have all these Wren and Martin specified things that were mandatory. I guess in today's fractured sms world, everything has gone for a toss....

  11. How times are changing!! But old is definitely gold for me, And I am with you on this one.

  12. W&M was a must for us too. :)
    I guess the form of language keeps changing, like the dress fashions. No?

  13. Absolutely with you. How can you replace 'dear' with 'hey'? According to Wall street Journal, 'dear' is almost totally replaced by 'hi' and 'hello' thanks to email.If that wasn't bad enough..

  14. @Jyothi - Could be. But yet, hey folks - seems too informal.
    @Sandhya - dear - as in Dear Sir or Dear Mr...? We have become so accustomed to using it in business correspondence, that the 'dear' does in no way seem too personal.
    @Manju - yes.. we did grow up with Wren and Martin.
    @Bikramjit - so true, we had to adhere to all rules in business communication. We could lose precious marks otherwise.
    @Deepa - Yes, I could never understand the 'Hai'
    @sm,Arti,Neena - I am not really the minority.
    @KP - yes, they are doing away with My Lord too.
    @RGB- I would find it odd if I received an official letter with Hey! Hopefully, it will be a while before it crops up in our country.
    @Nona - in emails you can drop the salutation, but in regular letters, it would seem odd.
    @UK - So true.sms and email... I think that has changed a lot of things.
    @Indrani - language and fashion? Good one.

  15. Everything has changed,even the values we keep.
    Addressing someone,for example.Would you call your teacher by her name? It is accepted these days.We have inherited it from the west.
    Words do not have much meaning these days.In an official letter,the term dear and lovingly, do they really show our feelings? Sincerely,Obediently and so on..do we really mean them?
    But I accept that there should be an acceptable term, and I cant find a substitute for dear.

  16. Hi nice blog and love the style of writing.I feel hey folks is cool to strike a chord with the new gen.
    All the best

  17. am not one wee bit comfortable with Hey folks ! yes, the wren and martin influence !

    But then, the world is changing. And when you deal with young people who are extremely dextrous with mobile texting language, 'dear sir', as one youngster told me, 'makes you belong to the stone age' !

  18. Yes, there is a lot of change happened. They no longer use 'Wren and Martin'

  19. With you totally on this!
    I suppose we are old fogies-I remember a time when even knowing one's school teacher's first name was something huge!!!!!

  20. Hi Dear Radha. :)
    Yours sincerely is replaced by regards or take care.

  21. I too have my old wren and martin red covered book!! Nostalgia...
    Well I agree that hey folks is much more informal than dear... You are not a minority!!
    Have a nice weekend:)


Would love to know what you have to say:

Related Posts with Thumbnails