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Miss Manners: Vary email greetings with the situation


Dear Miss Manners: What do you recommend to start emails for business, and for personal messages? And how to sign off?

I often see "Hi" as the start and "Thank you" as the ending, and sometimes that just doesn't feel right.

Emails cover a wide range of formality. Therefore the recipients and subject matter must always be considered when using salutations — and they may even be excluded altogether, once you are deep into the exchange.

“Hi,” although becoming commonplace, still strikes Miss Manners as being cheeky, or at least too breezy for business correspondence. And “thank you” is premature when accompanying a request.

Treat formal emails as you would letters — using “Dear” and “Yours truly” for business, and more affectionate terms for your personal affairs. Miss Manners will leave those to your own discretion, depending on the degree of intimacy — and the relative privacy of your Internet connection.

Dear Miss Manners: When eating a pastry (doughnut, muffin, cupcake) in public, should you eat it with a knife and fork?

These are classified as finger food, so you will be considered amusing to do so. However, Miss Manners notes that you will also avoid getting cream on your nose.

Dear Miss Manners: Two of my former next-door neighbors (elderly father and 50-something daughter) have passed away. It was very tragic, and I expressed my condolences online soon after I heard the news. But I also wanted to send a card, and now it's been a couple of months.

I am visiting in their family's town, right next door to them. Would it be inappropriate to send the card at this time? I really regret not having sent it sooner, and I really would like to express how I feel. I think it may also be an opportunity to pay a welcome visit.

It is never too late to express sympathy for a death. Its subject is unfortunately not going anywhere.

However, since some time has now passed, a full letter, something more substantial than just a card, would be kind. Especially if your intention is also to visit the mourners past the reasonable time for a condolence call.

Do so, saying that you would like to pay a call on them when it is convenient. Miss Manners cautions you, however, against using the letter as an announcement that that visit is a foregone conclusion.

Dear Miss Manners: My wife and I dine out often, and never cease to be amazed when restaurant servers feel compelled to comment on how much of our meal we've eaten.

We've heard comments like "You really killed that," "You must have hated that," and "Wow, you must have really been hungry."

These type of comments have ruined more than a few otherwise pleasant meals. I would think that restaurant management would stress the need for appropriate communications with customers. What is the proper response to such boorish and unprofessional comments?

“How kind of you, with the work you have to do, to take the time to watch how I eat.”

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website,

2018, by Judith Martin