I remember when I was in elementary school and kids were using the phrase "hey!" and every time we did, whatever adult was in the room (back then, usually a parent) would invariable respond with, "Hay is for horses." The gist being, it is not a word for people to use with each other. In spite of - or because of - this, the word continued to thrive in casual, spoken settings. The kind of situation where you wanted make sure you got someone's attention. As in, "Hey Liz! Your shoe's untied!"
Since then it started to be used as a spoken greeting; "Hey, how are you?" But I had not seen it in my academic work email until this year. And then suddenly, they were everywhere. And every time I see it, I have a visceral reaction: This is inappropriate, and I don't feel like you are treating me very nicely. I consider myself open minded and inclusive of various voices and ways of expression. But being asked to do something via email with an "Hey Liz" start does not make me feel very included. It makes me want to check to see if my shoe is untied. (Ah. So this is what it feels like to get old!)
I write this after a lot of reflection. After all, it does matter how we address each other in professional situations. Last year, I changed the greeting from "Dear RTC Student" to "Dear Awesome RTC Student' in my welcome student email from eLearning, and I was surprised that for the first time ever, I got several responses of "Thank you" from students. Buoyed by that response, I have started sending emails to faculty groups with "Dear Awesome Faculty" headings as well. It makes me feel good to write that. It makes them feel good to see that. Language matters, especially the language that sets a tone for a written exchange.
I know that language changes is inevitable ("Hi Liz" seems fine to me, but at one point "hi" was not used as a written greeting in the workplace) but being aware of nuances is crucial for effective communication. The ability to adjust language to fit with different situations seems like a skill we should be both using and teaching our students. At this point, I would model that approach. What do you think?