Dear Client

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The JC’s guide to electronic communication

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At the JC we struggle to understand the pathology of someone who addresses an out of office auto-reply to “Dear Sender”, but we suspect it is along the same lines as the commuter who cheerily says “Thanks, Driver!” as he alights, thereby showing unusual courtesy and then trampling all over it in the space of two words.

Dear Client” is much the same. It is bad business: “dear” conveys a degree of (professionally appropriate) intimacy with your correspondents. Nothing untoward or smutty about that even in these perpetually outraged times, of course, but it does imply you care enough to keep a proper record of their main contact details so that you can, with confidence, know their names.

Client” implies quite the opposite: either that you don’t know or that you don’t care: it conjures a faceless bovine — usually a herd of them — tethered to a stall in the milking shed. Now if someone is sufficiently dear to you for you to be warning them about the possible consequences of Korea’s new short-selling regulations, query whether a mass mailout to them and five hundred other clients is really the right way to go. Mass, one-way, sent-from-an-unmonitored-account communications tend, by their existence, so say “you are not dear enough to justify me writing to you in person, much less calling you up.”

“Dear Client” is to say, “you are special to me and, I suppose, I could go to the effort of setting up a mail-merge and injecting your actual name from my immaculate[1] client static data repository but, actually, hang it, life’s too goddamn short.”

This is no paradox, folks. There’s a simple solution if you find yourself sliding onto the floor between these particular stools: don’t use either “dear” or “client” when addressing your communication.

There is nothing wrong with not including a client’s name in the right circumstances: it might be a to-all communication going to 5,000 people updating them about MiFID 2 roll out, and the simple logistics of setting up a mail-merge might just not be worth the bother. Fair enough, if so, but then don’t call them “dear”. You’re running an ad in the paper for crying out loud, not inviting them to your son’s bar mitzvah.

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  1. Did you see the irony there? Did you? You saw it, didn’t you?