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I wrote a work-related formal email to somebody and they replied back informally.

Should my next reply match their informal tone (changing from my original Dear Name to Hi etc) or should I continue using formal tone?

Generally speaking the rule is to match the tone of the recepient but as I am the one who originally set the tone I am wondering if that won't be weird to suddenly change to informal email.

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  • Hi, I think this question is better suited for Writing.SE.
    – Joachim
    Commented Jan 13, 2023 at 11:25
  • I saw related questions both here and over at Writing SE (and English SE), guess I made the wrong choice then
    – user167087
    Commented Jan 13, 2023 at 11:38
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    On this site, issues concerning "etiquette" are matters of opinion. Besides which, I'm sure essentially "the same" issue arises with all languages, so it's really about culture rather than the actual words used by any particular society in this context. Commented Jan 13, 2023 at 11:41

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This feels more of an etiquette question than an English language question, but perhaps some of it is due to linguistic differences as you mention. Certainly, in Romance languages, there are indicators that a relationship is formal/informal, such as the different second-person pronouns. It isn't uncommon for French speakers, for example, to agree when to switch to using the informal. We don't have that in English.

The correct 'tone' of language is normally dictated by the situation rather than by any individual. A work or business setting is often formal. If employed, your employer may require a formal tone from you. You may need to maintain that professional, formal tone irrespective of whether your customer/client responded informally. For example, a waiter in a restaurant may have to maintain a certain composure and tone regardless of how the customer speaks to them.

A good question to ask yourself would be how an informal response may reflect on you as a professional individual or on your business. If you think that you and the other party can have a private, informal discussion and still maintain professionalism then perhaps you can respond less formally. But if you think that doing so may make your business dealings less professional then it may be better to maintain your tone.

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  • +1 - 'maintain your tone'. In my large legal organisation we have formal guidelines. If a client emails me 'Hey, Mikey my man!' and finishes 'All the best from your homie, Jim-boy', I still reply 'Dear Mr Smith' and finish 'Best regards Michael Harvey'. Commented Jan 13, 2023 at 12:39

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