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DP Challenges

Who Am I Talking To?

As an artist, arts educator and writer I communicate in the virtual space to a myriad of people and organisations… galleries, curators, publishers, fellow artists, potential buyers, students, peers, and even family and friends! And most of this communication is via email, at a rate of close to 99%


So how is this communication minefield navigated in twenty first century cyberspace? Gone are the days of telephone calls and hard copy exhibition submissions, or even letter writing to friends. I remember as a kid I always had penpals, and even choosing the stationary was a careful consideration. Writing a job application, however, required a completely different set of stationary – more formal, no flowers and flounces, a typewriter and the salutation was straightforward: ‘To Whom it May Concern’.

With the demise of this formal letter writing genre, largely due to the arrival of email and social media, the big question is: how do I address this ever expansive virtual audience that, at the end of the day are, in one way or another,  potential business partners?

It used to be so simple… textbook formulas and templates that were learnt at school but today, on the 18th July 2013 I am in a constant dilemma of what to call who, when and how and why, or should I or shouldn’t I, or aarrgghhh…so many salutations : Hello, Hi, Dear, Hello there …BUT, I’ll let you in a little secret I find the signing off just as traumatising!

Once upon a time I was secure in the safety and rules of ‘Yours Faithfully’ or ‘Yours Sincerely’ or ‘Yours Truly’… now its mostly ‘cheers’ – but that’s not always appropriate. I find myself torn between  ‘kind regards’ or ‘looking forward to your response’ or trying not to sound like a total twat!


So, now we have two dilemmas! The beginning and the ending – as though the in-between stuff wasn’t stressful enough! But, wait – the stationary!

Luckily for me Outlook Express comes complete with a stationary option, or I can upload my own – if the fancy takes me.

But after all of this uumming and arring, what does it all mean? How is one to overcome this modern day predicament? I have, over many glasses of red wine and sticky sweat, decided on my general rule of thumb-  it all boils down to who I am writing to… and it also depends on how many times I have communicated with the person. In other words, the first contact may be a bit formal, the second contact less so and the third contact and after quite casual… but having said that, it also depends on the tone of the emails I receive… for example:

Currently I have a book contract with a publisher. The book is due to be released soon and all of the communication is cyber based. We have been communicating for a couple of years now, but my editor still sends me emails addressed Dear Dawn and Best Regards as the sign off – so of course I follow this lead in construction of my return emails.

However, when it comes to students the protocol fades faster. I may have a student enquiry, and I will always begin with ‘Hello name, thank you for your enquiry’ and sign off with ‘Kind Regards’, but as that relationship changes it becomes…’no probs, cheers Dawn’.

Of course curators are another category, and again my responses are generally taken from their lead.

So, I guess at the end of the day it boils down to who I am talking to and how long I have been talking to them!

This post has been written as part of the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge: Mind the Gap.
You can check out more entires here:



7 thoughts on “Who Am I Talking To?

  1. Great post, Dawn. And def. food for thought! It’s a relief to hear that I’m not the only one that finds the standard “art-business world” closing of “Regards” or even worse – I’ve received this one ALOT: “Best,”. Best what?? It’s insulting if you’ve interacted w/ this person before and in poor taste. Yet – I see it all the time in correspondence from the most professional down to the familial!

    Posted by artdoesmatter | July 19, 2013, 12:53 am
  2. So many points to respond to, so many complications to ponder. Christ, I’m simply glad I told my would be publisher publisher I was old school and though I loved speaking with her on the phone, I simply couldn’t submit via cyber space, old dog/new tricks. Hell, I could always ‘blog,’ whatever the hell that is.
    But, gosh, I am cushioned by the bennies of retirement. Still, you must be retelling the age-old dilemma of the artist,should be independent, devoted to her art, but needs The Patron. How did van Gogh do it. Hmm, his brother. How does my younger son do it? Hmm, his father. So chose the intimate approach? “Wuz up?”
    I love the formal salutation. It opens the door. It seems successive approaches should grow more intimate.
    Regardless, I often use what you use to close your communications: Cheers. Everybody needs it, right?
    A buddy in Hawaii taught me another: POW! I think it means, “I’m out of here.” Cheers–Carrico

    Posted by carrico | July 19, 2013, 1:03 am
  3. it is a funny thing, how to view emails, are they official or not. I think I am old school and tend to think of emails as being informal, letters are formal. I always start with Hi, and finish with thanks, that is just how I do them. Then again, I am noticing that more and more people are using the internet as the only way to communicate, so who knows, maybe I need to start considering this more.
    Maybe that is why I don’t get replies back for some enquiries, they think they are too informal.

    Posted by Leanne Cole | July 19, 2013, 9:25 am
  4. Basically the good ole days are the good ole days for a reason. Everything adhered to a certain precept and it made things easier.
    It seems the only time we get to use ‘Dear Sir/Madam and Yours Sincerely” is when we’re sending out cover letters for job applications.

    Its confusing right now, what passes for formal and what is informal.

    Posted by dereklubangakene | July 24, 2013, 8:35 pm

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This work by Dawn Whitehand is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.