Why do we begin emails with “Dear so-and-so”?

Posted on Jun 22, 2021

I write a lot of email at work. Almost every one I write starts with “Hi, <name>.” It seems perfectly normal, until you realize that every email client already includes that in the “To” field above the body of the message. The reader knows her own name, and it is written on the screen in the “To” field next to her email address. Why do I write it again in the body of the email? Why do I do this 50 times every workday? Why do I do this even though I think it is redundant?

Simple: Because I think that everyone’s favorite word is their own name. Everyone likes to see it. It’s subtle flattery to include it atop the body of every email message. Whenever I think I should just stop my habit of typing it, I remind myself of this and keep going with it, because I think in the end it is worthwhile.