“Hey… ” – The Demise of Decorum

Among the many things irritating me these days, aside from COVID-19 policy guidelines for Germany, is the truly and utter demise of decorum and formality in emails. Granted, email is a universally accepted form of written communication these days, preferred by most people over good old-fashioned paper and pen, but it is absolutely no excuse to slip into an infamy of informality that is uncalled for, and quite frankly, rude.

I keep receiving business emails from both the German and English speaking world that begin with “Hey… “ and nothing ruins my mood faster than this. I received an email from a gallery, for example, with whom I had hoped to do some business with, and I didn’t know them from Adam, nor any of the associates dealing with artists. I expect a certain level of formality and am touchy when someone I do not know personally or even that well, addresses me as Hey… even worse, Hey there.

I blame text messaging and chat forums for this informality. We have grown accustomed to leaving comments on social media posts or group chats that are mega informal or even anonymous, which I suppose is accepted in small groups that know each other well, e.g. family chats or friends.

My hair already stands up with the email begins with Hi There… Dealing with younger colleagues in the past has always been insightful, but not necessarily satisfactory. One thing is for sure, there has a slow and steady decline of decorum and formality among the younger generation who tends to address everyone with the informality of a Facebook chat, regardless of age difference. Deference to generation, experience or position is non-existent these days, and much to my horror, this demise has reared its ugly head in the business world.

For cultures with languages that make a distinction between formal and informal tones (in German it would be the Sie and Du, in Spanish it is the Usted and Tu, most Asian languages have this distinction as well), it is easier to maintain some sense of decorum, as you need the other person’s permission to use the informal form. English, unfortunately, does not have this which automatically places everyone on the same plane. Admittedly there are occasional advantages to this, but it also allows for greater follies in etiquette.

Just because an email is convenient doesn’t mean you can discard the fundamental structure of written communication. Regardless of how familiar you are with the recipient, an opening line that does not begin with Hey… is definitely called for, and so are a main body, and closing line. I’m not trying to be a fuddyduddy-miss-goody-two-shoes, but I resent the demise of decorum, in the same way that I miss the good old days when chivalry was still alive, before it got murdered by displaced feminism (but this is a battle for another day).

Yeah, it’s been a bitchy migraine Monday and the sleeping bear was poked away by, you guessed it, a couple of Hey… emails. grrrrr.

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