This morning I received an email from a student that began as follows:

Hey Lisa,

I attached my formal report for you and if you can find a place to put a 3rd original graphic can you please let me know? I am drawing a blank on how I could do one. Also I wanted to …

Note that my students know it is perfectly fine to call me by my first name, so I have no problem with that. What I want to discuss is something else in the salutation.

“Hey” used to irk me in this context. However, a recent blog post by Allan Metcalf opened my eyes to the fact that I use and “hear” the word differently from my students. For my generation, “hey” is “the ‘hey’ of ‘Hey, you! Yes, you!’ that we use to attract someone’s attention,” whereas, for many of my students, “hey” is replacing “hi,” such as “when we recognize a friend or acquaintance coming to meet us, or when we start an email. ‘Hi [Hey], Sam, how’s it going?'” Read More

When I cover email etiquette in my technical composition courses, I still do make a point of telling my students that their professors, employers, and potential employers will most probably find the greeting unprofessional or too chummy. However, I no longer take the word as a personal insult.

For anyone interested, here is a pdf file of email tips for college students:

Email Tips