Dear, dear…

Try to avoid using “Dear” at the start of a message or e-mail unless you know the person’s name. With a few exceptions such as “Dear sir/madam” and “Dear all”, it’s not the way it’s normally done in English.

Dear colleague. Dear passenger. Dear customer. Dear user. The Dutch introduction to any letter or e-mail (“Beste…”) comes across as very clunky in cases like these. Imagine you’re actually speaking to them, face to face. Dear me!

  • At the very least, it’s worth putting it in the plural (colleagues, users, etc.) to make it clear that it’s generic. That doesn’t sound quite so awkward as addressing someone as “user” face to face.
  • Do you need to put anything there at all? If there’s some kind of title or similar above, the best translation is quite often to leave it out altogether!
  • If it is fairly formal, something like a recall notice for instance, an introduction such as “To our customers:” works better than “Dear customer”

I’ve not been doing this blog for a while, for a variety of reasons (including a certain amount of palaver after losing my login information). Sorry about that. But I’m looking forward to getting it going again.

Prevalence: endemic. Wherever the Dutch write a generalized e-mail, almost without exception.
Frequency: low. Well, obviously not more than once per message.
Native: no. But this kind of usage is certainly starting to appear, perhaps under the influence of so many non-native websites and similar.

Published by Mike Wilkinson

Twenty years of translating and editing Dutch into English, as well as writing and publishing in English.

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