In trying to answer this question I noticed that the first three words of my answer kept being eaten up. In despair, I erased my answer, started a new one, but to no avail: the first words still disappeared. And now I have the suspicion that it was because the disappearing words were "Dear Mark, the". Is the address "Dear..." forbidden here?

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    $\begingroup$ If I remember correctly, yes. The system automatically strips out salutations. For example, I typed this comment with @Georges: to start, but since you are the question owner, it will be stripped. $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Jul 4 '11 at 12:08
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    $\begingroup$ Salutations are automatically removed, see the linked answer for more details about that. $\endgroup$ – user9733 Jul 4 '11 at 12:14
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the answer, Willie. This goes even further than I thought. $\endgroup$ – Georges Elencwajg Jul 4 '11 at 14:35
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Willie! I had noticed this, while writing a comment to a question. Nice to hear the explanation. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Jul 5 '11 at 7:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Willie: If I start a question "To @user" will the user still be pinged? IN other words does the @ have to be the first word of the comment? $\endgroup$ – Carl Mummert Jul 6 '11 at 2:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Carl: The @lert system only works for comments. The user you are alerting must have contributed already in the present comment thread. So I cannot just randomly alert, say, Pete Clark in this comment thread. $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Jul 6 '11 at 8:17
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    $\begingroup$ In the three (and a half, soon) years that has passed, I can't say that the users became any more or less dear. But do you think there might have been a few deers that came to use the site and we now have some users that are deer? :-) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Dec 22 '14 at 18:51

Ah, found the Meta.SO post: Should 'Hi', 'thanks', taglines, and salutations be removed from posts?

Salutations are automatically removed from questions.

Similarly for certain types of @lerts in comments: Eeeeek - what happened to my @ salutation?

  • $\begingroup$ @Willie Wong: why has the beginning of this comment not been removed? $\endgroup$ – Rasmus Jul 4 '11 at 13:08
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    $\begingroup$ @Rasmus: that is because more than one person (other than the OP) has commented on the thread. When Georges posted his comment, the software assumes that he is talking to me. When you posted your comment, it could be for me, or it could be for Georges, or for both. Or at least that's how I read the arguments presented in the second of the links I gave above. Note, also that the reverse implication is also true: if only one person other than the OP has commented on the thread so far, any comments by the OP will be automatically delivered to that person's inbox. (@-notification w/o the @) $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Jul 4 '11 at 14:06
  • $\begingroup$ @Geo Are you aware that nowadays native English speakers rarely use "dear" except in very formal or very sentimental contexts? $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Jul 4 '11 at 15:20
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: Dear Bill, Perhaps you should say "most native English speakers", since I am a native English speaker who does address essentially all messages (letters, emails, comments on stackexchange and related fora) in this manner. Regards, $\endgroup$ – Matt E Jul 5 '11 at 2:44
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    $\begingroup$ @Matt Yes, indeed. In fact I meant to say "most" there. Out of curiosity, why do you do so here? Do you address folks that way at conferences too? $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Jul 5 '11 at 3:00
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    $\begingroup$ Dear Matt, I am happy to publicly proclaim that it is your example that made me address people on "MathOverflow" as "Dear XXX". My motivation in a nutshell: what's good for a great American mathematician and gentleman is certainly good for me too! $\endgroup$ – Georges Elencwajg Jul 5 '11 at 14:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Geo The point of informing you of that is that many readers will interpret such salutations as too formal or "stuffy". Perhaps that may not be what you intend. It is quite rare that native speakers do such. I've been using the net heavily for communication since 1979 and I can count on one hand the number of native English speakers I've encountered that do so. The majority of folks who do so are non-native speakers who were taught (old-fashioned) formal English. Much has evolved since then, esp. as pertains to electronic communication. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Jul 5 '11 at 15:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill and @Georges you guys are aware that this exchange is getting rather off topic? Discussions of English usage really belongs on the English Language StackExchange :-) Or take it to chat. $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Jul 5 '11 at 18:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Geo Thanks for the explanation. I can certainly appreciate your viewpoint. I'm glad to hear that you interpreted my comment as intended. Many folks have been kind enough to help me with foreign languages (esp. when translating math papers), so I try to return the favor whenever possible. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Jul 5 '11 at 19:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Georges: It was all in humour, but I have deleted my comment as per your request (and will delete this one as well later on). $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jul 5 '11 at 21:49
  • $\begingroup$ Dear Asaf, thank you. I have deleted my mention of your comment and will soon delete the present message too (when you delete yours, which will be a signal that you have read this). $\endgroup$ – Georges Elencwajg Jul 6 '11 at 9:05
  • $\begingroup$ Dear Willie, you are right: my posts were essentially off-topic and I've erased them. Let me sum-up the on- topic part, since some comments are now orphaned. I thanked you for your answer which completely explained the phenomenon. And I thanked Bill for his detailed explanations on the contemporary usage of English, which were benevolent and meant in a helpful way. $\endgroup$ – Georges Elencwajg Jul 6 '11 at 9:06

De​ar G​eorges,

I think users here are quite dear.

By the way: did you receive my mail with Suslin's papers on stably free modules? Otherwise I can send them to you again.

Best wishes,


PS: At the moment the engine doesn't catch empty characters ​ which I interweaved with the greeting.

  • $\begingroup$ Dear Theo, apparently I can start this comment with "Dear Theo" without using your trick. But could you please tell me how to use your string of characters: say I want to write "Dear Theo, I have just proved the Riemann hypothesis". Where should I put that string "​" ? I am infinitely grateful to you for having sent me Suslin's paper: I just checked after reading this answer of yours a few seconds ago. You see, since teaching is over, I don't open my professional e-mail daily. So my sincerest apologies for my delay and a thousand thanks for this friendly and thoughtful initiative $\endgroup$ – Georges Elencwajg Jul 5 '11 at 13:50
  • $\begingroup$ Dear @Georges, the trick won't work in comments, as html is turned off there, but it will work in answers. I wrote the greeting as De​ar G​eorges, but I suppose just about anything that breaks the word into several pieces would work. Concerning the papers, you're welcome of course. I figured something to that effect and wanted to induce you to go and check. $\endgroup$ – t.b. Jul 5 '11 at 15:03
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you, Theo, both for the explanation and above all for having had a benevolent hypothesis as to my not thanking you for the papers you sent me! $\endgroup$ – Georges Elencwajg Jul 5 '11 at 15:48

Note to readers: a similar prior question was posed on the "English Language & Usage SE" site. Compare the replies there - where some interesting points are made.


the users are indeed dear.

I do not see the problem in the meta, and the system running both sites is the same.


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