This may be strictly off-topic, but I'm hoping it will pass.

If you receive a letter that does not begin with an adjectival phrase followed by your name and end with herzlichst, hochachtungsvoll, beste gruesze, or some such phrase, (1) how if at all offended are you, and (2) how do you reply?

PS. Maybe this never happens in German speaking countries. But, if you were to get a /letter/ (in all but the said features of its form) which it would be impractical to ignore, what would you do? Would you reply in the same form or politely as you would normally?

The background for my asking is that I live in a Scandinavian country, where the traditional letter form is exactly the same as in German speaking countries. But that form is now being suppressed by letters beginning with a single line containing only the word 'hi'. This will happen when you deal with a store or your university &c. To me this is deeply offensive, and I imagine it would be to German speakers as well, but perhaps you never see it.

Take for example this e-mail from a printshop:


Soll der Umschlag rot oder grün sein?

Suppose, if it makes a difference, that this is in reply to a correct letter.

PS II. I use 'letter' to refer to electric as well as paper letters.

  • 2
    I think, in general this is a valid question for the site, however, it is too broad in its current state. Please narrow it down a little bit
    – Jan
    Jun 13, 2017 at 22:58
  • Can you provide a concrete example please? Makes the question easier to digest! Jun 14, 2017 at 7:33
  • 1
    Are these "letters" letters on paper or e-mails?
    – IQV
    Jun 14, 2017 at 11:14
  • @IQV, both. I suppose I should have made that clear, but I tend to think of them as the same in different media.
    – Toothrot
    Jun 14, 2017 at 11:30
  • 2
    The thing that would bug me is the uppercase S.
    – Carsten S
    Jun 14, 2017 at 15:06

1 Answer 1


I am not at all offended because such a letter is clearly a Postwurfsendung which means I'm expected to throw it away without taking further notice. Naturally, I don't reply.

Kidding aside, letters, also emails should begin at least with Hallo ‹myname› and more important, end with Gruß, ‹yourname›. Anything less is not a letter.

And Hochachtungsvoll is the equivalent of Your unfriendly bureaucrat of cubicle 137.

  • 1
    Right. If it really wants to be a letter, it must be embraced by forms of hello and good bye. If not, it's not a letter. I would not be offended by receiving such a piece of paper, but I probably would throw it away without reading, because I would not think that it really is important for me. Also correct: »Hochachtungsvoll« is an absolutely outdated no-go. Use »Mit freundlichen Grüßen« instead. Jun 14, 2017 at 6:41
  • The intended premiss of the question is that this /is/ a letter to which you are expected to reply. Imagine it would be impractiacal not to reply.
    – Toothrot
    Jun 14, 2017 at 7:49
  • How come if the sender doesn't even know my name? Or how to greet? I rarely deal with such persons but it had yet to happen it was impractical to ignore them.
    – Janka
    Jun 14, 2017 at 7:55
  • 1
    @Toothrot In my opinion "Hochachtungsvoll" is very old-fashioned. "Mit freundlichen Grüßen" is the standard greeting at the end of a letter.
    – IQV
    Jun 14, 2017 at 8:12
  • 1
    It's all about the people who write that. Only bureaucrats write Hochachtungsvoll nowadays and the letter on top of that is favorable only on very seldom occasions. Liebe Grüße is written by friends and relatives and Mit freundlichen Grüßen is written by anyone else.
    – Janka
    Jun 14, 2017 at 8:34

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