The Decline and Fall of the English Salutation

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The following email was forwarded to me by an author.

Richard Curtis

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My Dear Miss Klimstrock,

I’m writing to tender an apology for my intemperate outburst in response to your email greeting me as “Hey, Pat.” I have been aware for some time that the Internet tends to dissolve formalities but I did not realize that things had progressed quite so far.

I assure you that I usually have far better better control over my impulses but perhaps you can appreciate that, given my title and social position, I am accustomed to being addressed Milord or Sir. In the circles in which I was raised, familiarity by peers and indeed even intimate friends is considered shockingly vulgar. Thus, to be addressed “Hey” by a perfect stranger was so alien to my fundamental sense of respect and dignity that I momentarily forgot that the civilized ladies and gentlemen who once populated the publishing profession have been replaced by ignorant and uncouth ragamuffins who speak to one another in grunts, slang and monosyllabic code and send texts in incomprehensible shorthand. I would not have guessed, however, that such liberties are now extended to authors and perfect strangers.

I hasten to assure you that these derogatory remarks are not directed at you specifically, Miss Klimstrock. I also wish to make it clear that I am not reacting spitefully to your rejection of my submission, though I confess that the crudeness of your expression and illiteracy of your spelling and grammar did fuel the rage that compelled me to write my regrettably childish outburst of spleen before I could gain control of my emotions.

Hard as it is, I know I must reconcile myself to the common parlance of the modern world. I realize that we no longer live in an age when we saluted our correspondents with such phrases as “Your Excellency” and Esteemed Madame” or even “Dear Author” and I will endeavor to adjust to the usages of the 21 century, however offensive they may be to the well-bred.

I will remit a cheque for the return of my manuscript.

Believe me to be very truly yours,

Patrick Marley-Clockbridge, Third Earl of Crumfleath

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About Richard Curtis

Richard Curtis is a leading New York literary agent (www.curtisagency.com) who foresaw the Digital Book Revolution and launched an e-book publishing company early in 2000. E-Reads (www.ereads.com) is one of the foremost independent e-book publishers in the industry, specializing in reprints of genre fiction by leading authors in their fields. Curtis is also a well-known authors advocate, author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction including several books about the publishing industry, and prolific blogger – see his hundreds of other blog posts here.

One thought on “The Decline and Fall of the English Salutation

  1. giovanna

    Dear Mr. Curtis: I concur with your sentiment, however, I don’t think I’ll ever get used bad manners… Maybe I’m old school but we need to stick together. Sincerely, Ms. Formality Keeper

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