My favorite speechwriting authority Jerry Tarver used to joke about the speaker who was "so pompous, when he said 'good morning,' he appeared to be taking credit for it."
The other day, I almost used "good morning" in another obnoxious way.
I'm trying to reach an archivist I've never met to assertain what she has in her files.
I'm wanting her to feel the urgency urgency of my request. So instead of commencing, "Hi Joan," I begin, "Good morning, Joan."
Just to let Joan know that I know that she knows that I know that she knows that I'm writing her in the morning, and to suggest maybe she could reply to me in the morning, too. Or at least that same afternoon.
But I thought the better of it, because it occurred to me that I resent it when people I don't know "good morning" me over email. The whole beauty of email is that it allows us to engage whenever it's convenient. If you call me on the phone, say "good morning." But to an emailed "good morning," my unconscious response is, "Never mind what time it is, Bub. Tell me what you want and when you'd like to have it and I'll get back to you when I can."
So I told Joan straight up that I was in "something of a hurry" with my research, and I left it at that.
It seems to me that "good morning" should be saved for old friends and new lovers.
Am I overthinking it? Or am I just thinking it?
Michael Zimet says
Good morning, David.
These are the greetings that grace the bulk of my inbox avalanche. I don’t know if they’re rude, but…
The first, well, it’s fine if your recipient opens his/her email first thing in the morning. But for grumpy old curmudgeons like me who take 23 hours to wake up, it’s like rubbing salt in the wound. (Not that afternoon is any better, but that’s a whole ‘nother matter.)
The second reminds me of the days when we wrote formal letters by longhand. It’s polite and perfunctory, and I guess it passes for personal… but it’s definitely not as warm as how I’d greet you when we meet.
The third is, well, cold. Maybe even borderline rude. Okay, you know my name, but just sticking it out there feels like “hey you” or “listen up.” Cold, impersonal, maybe even lazy. It sounds like I’m about to be reprimanded. I don’t like it.
Which leaves “Hi (insert name here).” It’s good for any time of day or night, for just about anyone – even if I don’t (yet) know them. It feels as natural, warm and conversational (and effective) as I hope the rest of my email will be. Whether for business, personal or both. It gets my vote.
But wait! Now that we’re discussing how we open our emails, what about how we close them?? e.g.:
Hasta la pasta.
I dunno, David, this one is wide open. What say ye?
David Murray says
I usually end with “best,” or “cheers.” STOP But the kids today–and by kids, I mean people younger than 44 STOP generally don’t sign emails at all because they never heard of letters. END TRANSMISSION.
Gerry Matthews says
Frankly, David, I think you’re overthinking it. It’s better than “Hey you!”, and the writer may not be in any hurry at all, but it just happens to be morning there.
When someone signs off with “Best,” I wonder to myself, best what? When they say “Cheers,” I want to know who brought the refreshments, because I haven’t been served yet. But then again, I might be overthinking it too.
David Murray says
Yes, Gerry, I’m not particularly proud of my sign-offs.
“Best” is short for “best regards,” which I’m far, far, far too busy to type out in its entirety. “Cheers,” I picked up from the Aussies, Brits and Europeans, who use it a lot. I like it because it’s got a happy-warrior, “no worries, mate” ring to it.
But I’m thinking of creating a new sign-off that I think will lend a culturally relevant commentary to every message I send.
Different things drive different people crazy. I like “Good morning” but hate “Cheers” (and fist bumps in the real world).
David Murray says
Fist bumps are almost objectively obnoxious, and yet I like doing them–especially when you blow it up at the end!!!!
Don’t you think they’re better than that 70s jive, the high-five?
We’ve got to have something between a handshake and a hug.