I received an email yesterday that began "Hi Patrick J." It caused a flashback to my childhood. When my mother was angry with me, she called me Patrick J. When she was really ticked off, she called me Patrick John. And when it was certain she was going to whip my sorry behind, it was all three names, Patrick John Lamb. I knew what punishment was on the horizon just by what portion of my name she chose to call out.
So I get this email and immediately wonder why my mother is sending me an angry email. Turns out it was an email selling me something. Buy now and you get a free toaster, plus a chance to win other cool prizes. So I started thinking about how I address emails to people I haven’t met yet. If a person’s name is William, does he go by William, Will, Bill, or something else. If I write "Dear William" and everyone knows him as Bill (think Bill Clinton), you immediately brand yourself as uninformed, especially if there is information you could find on the web that would tell you he goes by Bill. My default is this: if I don’t know the person or haven’t been introduced via a common friend (the 1 degree rule), I use "Mr." For women, I use "Ms." because I usually don’t know the whether the person is married, kept her maiden name or is one of many women who prefer the neutral "Ms." I tend to introduce myself as Pat as an indicator that I am comfortable with the informality that using Pat instead of Mr. Lamb or Patrick implies.
That’s my rule of thumb on forms of address. Anyone have different rules that they follow?