Cultural Context

Miriam Kinfe

Addressing a Recipient

Languages and cultures have different ways of addressing people. In Russian culture, it is essential that a plural form of ‘you’ is used to refer/address someone who is older or in a senior position than the writer. In Chinese culture, addressing someone by their professional or courtesy name conveys respect as Chinese prefer to be addressed formally. In Chinese, usually the title follows the family name. Chinese women use their maiden names even after marriage, therefore marital status might be indicated using Mrs., Ms., Miss, or Madam could be used, but in modern times it is used rarely. In some other cultures, first names are commonly used instead of last names or family names. In such situations, people’s profession is followed by their first names. The salutations ‘Dear Respected Sir/Madam’ are very common in Indian English. This is considered old-fashioned and native speakers of English do not use ‘respected’ in their salutations.

In American context, when addressing a professor use the recipients professional title and last name. For example, assume that you are writing an email to a professor whose name is Ben Jones. The proper salutation is: Dear Dr. Jones or Dear Professor Jones and not Dr. Ben.


Another cultural difference that occurs in email communication is the content of the message the email contains. In some African, Arab and Asian cultures, the message is not clearly specified and it is left to be understood through context, nonverbal cues, and through interpretation of what is actually said in the message. In contrast, English-speaking countries expect messages to be explicit and specific.


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Cultural Context Copyright © 2020 by Miriam Kinfe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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