So hard, it seems, to start and end
A letter or email to mail or send.
Is it “Dear Hal” or “Dear Mr Rett”
To a friendly chap you’ve never met?

Who it is you are addressing
Should be the first consideration,
“To whom it may concern”
A fallback in frustration.

But a name on hand is golden,
Beware, though, its frivolous use,
Too chummy in a letter
And you’ll land in the mail refuse.

“Hello”, “Good morning”, “Greetings” are okay
For the second time you’ve written to Kay,
As long as she has written to you
With an intro like “Dear Marylou”.

And that’s a big clue:
A first name in an intro or close;
No longer do you need to consider
If it should be Ms, Mrs, Sir or Mr.

Some who are blunt or are strapped for time
Will write just “Fred” on a lonely first line.
Don’t take it as an affront or believe they’re mad,
Simply carry on and write back, “Chad”.

But if you should be formal in your writing,
Start with “Dear Mr” with the last name following.
Close with “Sincerely” or “Respectfully yours”
For Mr Rett, not for Jack or Urs.

Indeed, for formal use and those you don’t know,
“Cordially” and “Respectfully” will make you glow.
“Yours truly” or “Yours faithfully” are formal, too,
But “yours” implies some inkling between the two of you.

For the second or third communication,
Put “Regards”, “Kind regards” and “Best wishes” in action,
Reserving “Cheers”, “Take care” and “Always” for those close,
And “Love” for the ones you care for the most.

And what of those icons and various faces,
In texts, posts and Facebook pages?
If you’re friends with your reader and they use smileys to cheer,
Use an emoji or two to make your tone crystal clear.

Remember the step that’s often excluded:
Reread your text, intro and close included
To check that you aren’t too friendly or formal,
In fact, that you are, all told, just normal.

– Eric Schallenberg

Featured image: by, CC BY