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When responding in a chain email where there is a discussion including our department manager and department manager from another site (different country). What I observed for my two years in the company, some of my colleagues use 'Sir/Ms' in email when speaking with Managers in the same site, but with Managers from other site they address it through name:

Hi John

instead of

Hi Sir John

.. and some use the second for either site Manager.

Now sometimes I feel awkward not to use 'Sir/Ms' to managers from other site when responding in email chain and then after few minutes I need to respond to our own department manager but then I'm using 'Sir/Ms', thinking I'm speaking with a higher position from another site and they're CC'd and To'd in the email.

So which is better?

  1. Do not use 'Sir/Ms' to our own department manager when in a chain mail with other site manager and treat them equally.
  2. Use 'Sir/Ms' to any department manager and treat them equally. (Is this not too much formality?)

I'm a Software Engineer and the higher ranks that I usual communicate with are Production Manager/ Production Supervisor / Department Head ..etc.

My Location:

Southeast Asia/PH

Site locations:

India/US/Vietnam/China

  • 1
    If you mention your location we could give better, more contextual and cultural-specific answers – DarkCygnus May 24 at 0:54
  • 1
    "Hi Sir John" would only be apppropriate if John was actually a Knight or other nobleman. The Order of the Star of India became dormant in the Commonwealth realms from February 2009, and the Order of the Indian Empire after August 2010, when the last knights of the orders died. In the Philippines it would be if writing to a Knight of Rizal. If you are writing a group email to various people why not start simply "Ladies and Gentlemen:" or similar – Owain May 24 at 18:52
  • @Owain haha I got your point, but I believe that is what the culture here, students were trained or get used to using 'Ma'am and Sir' in school. We don't call our male teacher 'Professor X', but we call it 'Sir X'. Even in the market or public, regardless of race if you're speaking with us we will never address you as 'What can we do for you Mr.?', but instead the use of 'Sir'. If various people in an email chain it will never be a problem, our corporate get used to use 'Hi All', or 'Hi Everyone' – threeFatCat May 24 at 23:55
  • When contacting higher-ups in the US in a tech company, please drop the 'Sir/Ms'. Those particular formal honorifics drive us nuts. That being said, if you're corresponding with higher-ups from other industries in the US, or other countries, I don't really know what you should say. – Stephan Branczyk May 25 at 2:30
  • @StephanBranczyk yeah, I noticed that in US culture, 'Sir/Ms' is not common or not that pleasant in terms of corporate and non-corporate environment. I'm thinking also UK? I had client before and we're just using first name without honorifics. Thanks for pointing that one out here. – threeFatCat May 25 at 3:45
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It depends

India and the U.S. and China and Vietnam have wildly different cultures and norms around when and when not to use honorifics. In the U.S. you generally the person's first name, or whatever there chosen name is without honorifics.

My general rules for using honorifics (as an American)

Address everyone inside the company the same way

If you mix the formality based on seniority or job title then "lower" people will get angry because they feel you don't respect them enough to use the honorifics you use for "everybody else".

Mirror the honorifics you see in previous communication

Try to match the formality of the communication. If there are already Mr/Mrs/Ms etc, then use those. As per above, don't mix and match. Everyone should be Mrs. Smith and Dr. Kelso, not Jane and Bob.

Ask your Boss about Writing Standards

Most companies actually have writing guidelines, they just usually don't bother telling the engineers about them. Ask your boss if one exists. If not, maybe take an extra task of writing one up.

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When in doubt, address people formally. If someone prefers you to address them informally, they, or a colleague of yours, will tell you. In the meantime, you will not go wrong by showing respect.

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