KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Name Game

How do you address potential clients when they contact you by e-mail?

E-mail is such an immediate medium—well, okay, less immediate than instant messaging or Twitter—that it can be easy to assume that your correspondents won't mind being addressed by their given name. I'm not a formal person, so I like being addressed by my given name, but not everyone from every culture will feel the same way. And an important part of good client care is putting the client at ease.

Regardless of what nation my potential clients reside in, I address them however they present themselves in our initial contact, until they ask me to use a more familiar form of their name. Of course, if a potential client signs her first e-mail to me with her given name, like this

With all good wishes,

Marguerite Girard, MD, PhD, PsyD, JD, MPH
Chief Intelligent Person in Europe
Extremely Prestigious Academic Institution

then I'll address her as Marguerite in my reply, rather than as Dr. Girard or as Chief Intelligent Person Girard. And I'll sign my reply like this

Best wishes,

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf, ELS
KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984sm

to signal that I too can be addressed by my given name.

But because most of my international ESL (English as a second language) authors sign their initial e-mails to me like this

With all good wishes,
Marguerite Girard, MD, PhD, JD, MPS, PsyD
Chief Intelligent Person in the Western Hemisphere
Extremely Prestigious Academic Institution

I address them formally in my reply. Why? I like to meet my clients where they are, rather than where I might want to put them. Showing respect for your clients' personal comfort goes a long way toward establishing goodwill, something that's vital when it comes time to get those clients to accept your editing of their manuscripts.


Shakirah Dawud said...

I do the same, in general. I like to refer to a person by the way they've signed their name in an e-mail. If I'm writing the first e-mail, I address my recipient by the name on any website/profile I've found. But I still get the twinge of a dilemma about it, so I was glad to read this post.

Shakirah Dawud said...

Sorry, that should be "I like to refer to people..."

Kristi Hein said...

This triggered a memory, and I dipped into my email archives: on my third email exchange with a new Japanese academic client in 2000 -- him using "Ms. Hein" and me calling him Mr. accordingly -- I wrote "Dear Mr. [first name] [last name], May I address you as [first name]? You are welcome to call me "Kristi"!
And he replied "Please call me [first name]." It's been that way ever since; just got a new paper from him.

Juliette said...

This is actually a very sensitive area for me as I communicate with my clients both in English and in German, depending on how they initiate contact. I've noticed that we quickly move to a first-name basis when I communicate with Germans in English. However, I have to pay special attention to the formal and informal personal pronouns when communicating 'auf Deutsch'. I've had some clients for years and we're still using the formal "Sie" with each other as opposed to the informal "du", but that's typical of a professional German relationship. I definitely have to rely on their initial contact to set the tone for future correspondence!

Kristine Hunt said...

I work almost entirely with professors and other Very Special Academic Types. Sometimes, however, I don't get their credentials ahead of time or in their signature lines, especially when working through a publisher. I always look them up online to see if they have a doctorate, and then always, always, refer to them as Dr. in my initial contact, giving my first name in my sign-off.

And almost always, they respond with their first name in response to mine. From there it's Hi Gloria, thanks Bob, etc.

Can't hurt to be overly formal and let the client change the tone per their discretion.

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

@Kristine, doing a little research about your authors' backgrounds is good practice. I frequently do the same thing.

@Juliette, like you, I have some longtime clients whom I still address formally, because that is what is appropriate for them in their culture. But then I also encounter very young clients from the same formal culture, and they are much more informal than their older counterparts. I'm on a first-name basis early on in relationships with those younger clients. I've even become Facebook friends with some of them.

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