How to Start an Email

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The proverbial "they" have always said that between 70 to 90 percent of communication is nonverbal. Body language is important. But you don’t have that luxury in an email. All you have is the written word.

And, as it turns out, you may be saying more than you realize before you even get to the main thrust of your intended message.

That is, if The Morning News is to be believed. Graham T. Beck has a comprehensive breakdown of the most common salutations people use in their emails, and while it’s meant as a primer for recent college grads, based on the emails I’ve gotten my whole life, everyone could use a little refresher. Or if not a refresher, at least a little pause to reconsider what they’re saying and how.

His post is somewhat whimsical and occasionally silly and reads like a humor piece, but his message still has merit. Here’s a taste:

“Hey,” means you want something from me.
“Hey:” means you expect something from me.
“Hello” signifies that you spent too much time thinking about everything that follows...
“Hi,” suggests you think you’re important.
“Hi!” means I’m going to delete your email without reading it.
“What up?” means you’re an old friend asking for a favor. No.

Obviously, not every possible greeting is on here. That would be impossible. But it at least is an opportunity to, as I said, rethink your approach to communicating with others virtually. Things can be so easily misread via the Internet when it comes to one-on-one or one-on-many communication. Be it in Gchat, email, tweeting or writing an article, if you lose or alienate your audience before you even get around to saying what it is you want to say, how are you going to work with others? Increasingly we are supposedly getting more and more isolated by the amount of time we spend in front of the computer working with others.

Context is important. And eventually you’ll have to be face-to-face with the people you communicate digitally with. The last thing you want is to get off on the wrong foot to iron out some miscommunication that was made online. It’s poor form and it’s easily avoidable.

Give the full thang a read here.

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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