Undine writes that ze knows “where politeness dwells on the internets:”
But politeness does still exist–in professional email.
A few years ago, I started noticing that a number of academics didn’t just launch into requests or whatever when writing emails. Instead, the emails began with the sentence “I hope you are well” or another courteous phrase unheard of back in the olden days.
And the complimentary closes of the emails became more polite, too. Although a lot of people still apparently prefer “best,” I’ve seen comments at the Chronicle saying that this is too curt, and in the last couple of years, I’ve seen a lot more variety in this part of the email, too: “best regards,” “warm regards,” “all best,” “with best wishes,” “cordially,” and so on.
That’s my experience. I always err on the side of formality when e-mailing complete strangers, addressing people by titles and last names unless and until invited to do otherwise. And, it seems like this is the “house style” among professionals. As Undine writes, “I’m charmed by this politeness. It makes me feel as though I’m in a Jane Austen novel and am receiving a letter, not an email.” Right on! Oh, if only I got letters like that intense letter that Anne Elliott gets from Captain Wentworth near the end of Persuasion, when all hope for their love seems quite lost. But, I’ll take a friendly and polite e-mail, any day.
As Dr. No writes in the comments on Undine’s blog, “I recently agreed to participate in a service task (something I would normally NOT do) simply because the email was so fantastically well written and cordial. I couldn’t help myself!” This seems quite out of character for Dr. No–to say the least! (It’s quite possible that Dr. No is being sarcastic. We can’t rule that out.)