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Imagine if ‘Dear John’ didn’t have a Dear John 

I didn’t do as much witness work for my legal clients during 2005–6 and I was interested to see from a former client a letter from a large ’s partner. I won’t reveal any specific information, of course, but let’s say it’s from a firm I did have some dealings against in the 1990s and I considered their statement of defence pretty amateur. I have considered their to be very amateur, too—all style and no substance.
   Or perhaps their or marketing consultant actually did a perfect job—they expressed the firm honestly and accurately.
   The , with all the Our refs and jargon, lacks a salutation. There is no Dear or even an Attention: it launches straight in to the .
   This may be very nice for text messaging but it has no place in what is considered acceptable .
   Perhaps once texting, or some evolution of it, becomes the dominant form of —which places us roughly between grunting and Morse code—then business correspondence may evolve toward the demise of the salutation.
   Until then, this merely illustrates the arrogance of the and how it has fallen even further out of step with its clientèle.
    need to remember they represent certain parties and that those parties—the ones that pay their bills—have brands that need to be protected, not destroyed through callousness.
   The effects on culture are wide-reaching. Imagine singing the song ‘Dear John’ without the words Dear John. It kind of sucks with the lyric-free bits in the verses.
   How about answering a phone without a ‘Hello’?
   When I relayed this to one regular client, a practising who is around my age, he was surprised. He has received such letters, too, but he agrees with me on this topic.
   There is what some people call a simplified letter, where there may be no salutation and the words Attention: Dispatch Department (for instance) may take its place. These are acceptable—just—when the recipient is unlikely to be known by the writer, but I have always adopted a Ladies and Gentlemen in such cases.
   I realize that the niceties of I remain or even Your loyal and humble servant have disappeared in New Zealand but this development of the missing salutation is worrisome.
   At best it is disrespectful to the recipient, which may be what the law firm wanted to convey—but disrespecting others is merely a sign of an absence of self-respect, showing that the firm itself is without merit.
   Yet the of this letter has not forgotten his valediction—I imagine he has retained it because that way he can put his own name down the bottom and see it in print.
   After all, with no salutation, surely there is no need for a valediction? My most casual emails, where I am firing off an internal memo or a quick response to some people, do lack both. I simply end the text with an em dash and my initials and I encourage some members of my team to do the same.
   Commerce does not function with people acting selfishly. It only works with mutual —and that includes people who may disagree with one another.
   So, for all those who have forgotten the components of an acceptable letter in modern business practice, here is a link. It is not geared to a general audience, nor do I agree with all of it, but following its components will certainly present a letter which hides how years of law school and have failed various members of the profession.
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Entries from 2006 to the end of 2009 were done on the Blogger service. As of January 1, 2010, this blog has shifted to a Wordpress installation, with the latest posts here.
   With Blogger ceasing to support FTP publishing on May 1, I have decided to turn these older pages in to an archive, so you will no longer be able to enter comments. However, you can comment on entries posted after January 1, 2010.

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