Most of us are pretty informal today. We address each other by our first names, even if we’ve just met. And we send email using people’s first names only. After all, quite often that’s the only name they’ve given us.
And here on Active Rain, everyone uses first names. It’s simply the way it’s done.
But in some situations, and with some people, assuming its fine to use a first name is a big mistake. In fact, it's a sure way to alienate.
I was reminded of that the other day when my neighbor came by. He said “some jackass” had come to the door, and when he opened it the man said “You Byron?”
He answered “I’m Mr. McGaffey. What can I do for you.”
Byron really was fuming over a stranger having the gall to address him in that manner. And whatever it was the man wanted, he sent him on his way without it.
Senior Citizens are especially touchy about this...
I remember my Mother coming home from a doctor’s appointment outraged because some young nurse had the nerve to address her by her first name. In her eyes, it was both condescending and disrespectful. So was “dear.”
In her generation, no polite person would make such an assumption, even in a social situation. You said Mr. or Mrs. or Miss until the other person gave you permission to do otherwise.
And that is still the safest course to take.
If you’re mailing letters to a farm area and address your letters to “Joe and Mary,” there’s a good chance that some of the people in that territory will take offense at your informality. Even some who are not senior citizens will view it as disrespect - or fake friendliness.
And if they see you as being disrespectful or phony you can be sure they aren’t going to want to do business with you.
So why take the chance? Why not just go ahead and use their titles?
The only time I use a first name when writing a postal letter is when I can’t decide if I’m writing to a man or a woman. It makes an even worse impression to write to "Miss Chris Jones" if Chris happens to be a man.
But there’s one thing about it. It does save the recipients some time. When I receive a letter to Mr. Marte Cliff or Mr. Cliff Marte, I know it’s advertising, so I feel free to toss it without opening it.