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Richard-Business Eng
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The use of the word DEAR in salutations ... Why should I call anyone 'dear'... It doesn't feel right!

OK... We've just completed an interesting discussion on the subject of salutations and commas.

Now, I have to know what you think about the salutation "Dear".

I have no problem addressing someone I care about or someone I love as "Dear...", but I have always felt that the use of Dear in business communications is unusual.

I have always felt odd addressing someone I may not even know as "Dear".
Imagine writing this "Dear person I have never met (so why would I consider you dear to me?)"


Dear defined:


1  used as a conventional greeting or in the salutation of a letter as an expression of respect, friendship, etc.:

2  beloved; much loved; precious:

3  expensive:

... also used as a noun and an interjection.


Etymology (the origins of words)

dear (adj.)

Old English meaning "precious, valuable, costly, loved, beloved,"

As a polite introductory word to letters beginning around 1500

Also meaning “glorious, noble; regarded with esteem and affection;”


The history of the word

The salutation Dear has a long and happy history in business correspondence.

The earliest meaning was "esteemed or valued, not loved." 

Some say:

- “Dear” is a bit too intimate and connotes a personal relationship

- “Dear” can be used with people you don't know particularly well because it corresponds to respect.

- “Dear” does not mean that person (the addressee) is particularly dear to the writer.

- The use of “Dear” doesn’t necessarily imply an intimate or affectionate connection.

- The word “Dear” can be used intimately or formally.

- The word “Dear” should be used in business letters and emails

It seems that more men than women have trouble opening a business letter with the salutation "Dear _____."

Since the advent of emails, the use of the salutation ‘Dear’ has been decreasing.


Is "Dear" an endangered species?  Is “Dear” a four-letter word?

It would appear to be. You may have noticed that fewer and fewer people begin their letters and notes with "Dear."


Playing it Safe

Many people, including business etiquette consultants, say that one is never wrong by being formal, but one can often be completely wrong if they are too casual."


Do you feel comfortable using the salutation "Dear", especially with strangers, or people you may not respect or even like?

Are you seeing it used less often?

What alternative would you suggest?

Mar 23, 2018 1:11 PM
Comments · 26

@Richard: Thank you. I like your discussions a lot because they teach us NESs how to properly communicate in English.

So, what alternative do you suggest? Wouldn't it be awkward or strange if you opened an email and you saw something like the following openings?

Gentle/Precious/Respected/Valuable Richard,

Thank you for your discussions.

Sincerely yours,


@Miriam: I believe "Dear X" is clearly different from "my dear". In the first one, dear is an adjective used before a noun to describe how a person is of high value and importance to you while in the second case dear is a noun that signals not only affection but also possession. Sweetie is indeed flirtatious.

March 23, 2018
Esteemed Mr. Richard,

I think that most people learning English as a foreign language are taught that 'Dear, ...' is just the standard beginning of the letter. And we don't think too deeply about the real meaning of this word. Sometimes we think: 'It's strange to call everyone "dear" but when they (native speakers) do that, they probably expect us to do the same. As the off-topic: I remember the scene from the British 'Notting Hill' comedy when the Japanese businessman kisses the man at the hotel reception desk, because he thinks it's a local custom.
In my language we use the word equal to 'esteemed' and reserve 'Dear' to the informal letters to people we know (though not necessarily dear to us).
This topic has reminded me of one funny experience with business e-mail, when the employee of an American (US) company writing an e-mail to the Diagnostic Imaging Department of a hospital (Polish: 'Dział Diagnostyki Obrazowej') started his letter with 'Dear Diagnostyki'.
March 23, 2018
The places I've ever seen/heard "dear" are more formal letters/emails or if an older person is talking. Young people don't really use this word as a form of affection. In written communication, you don't always need it, and dropping it after a few emails or not including it at all shows a more casual situation. The word has changed meanings over the last few generations, and to younger people can be seen as just a formal written greeting.
March 23, 2018

Princess Miriam...

I am so relieved to know that you are not angry with me for being foolish.
You have a good sense of humour and if I have learned anything in the last hundred years, I have learned that a sense of humour helps us to avoid taking minor things too seriously.
Not only that, but I agree completely with your use of the commas after my name and also after the nice/cute adjective 'darling' because I would pause after each of the two commas if speaking.
Danke junge Dame (Google translate)

Miss Sarah...

Old ladies (and old men too) from many different countries use the term Dear to express their friendly, caring and possibly affectionate feeling towards a younger person. It is very nice when older people speak so nicely to younger people.
I understand why you might be concerned about a young man calling you dear, but as we have seen from this post, it is a common salutation and is sometimes used to show respect. It might be possible that the person using 'dear' is just being respectful and friendly.
However, if the young man uses other terms of endearment, such as honey, baby, sweetie, darling, etc, then I woudl definitely say this was inappropriate and you would be right to say "bye bye".

Thank you for your interesting comments.

March 23, 2018

Hi, Richard!

We Russian for official communications use another word: "уважаемый"  (respected). "Дорогой" (dear) is little bit informal or joky.

March 23, 2018
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Richard-Business Eng
Language Skills
English, French
Learning Language