Salutations, closings and pronouns: Some aspects of recipient design in online counselling


  • Wyke Stommel Radboud University



online counselling, conversation analysis, recipient design, salutations, closings, forms of address


This article examines recipient design in online counselling. Recipient design has been found to be an important aspect of professional-client interaction (Heritage 2002; Wilkinson 2011). It essentially means that professionals devise their talk for the specific client, which is crucial for building the counselling relationship. This article focuses on the ways in which counsellors and clients design their salutations, closings and pronoun address forms in e-mail with the recipient in mind. It is known that second person pronouns (in languages with informal vs. formal pronouns) invoke a certain social distance between the participants and that greetings play an important role in establishing social relations in e-mail. The analysis, informed by conversation analysis, revealed that while counsellors initially use a formal recipient design in the e-mails, clients frequently use informal salutations, closings and/or the informal second person pronoun (T) to reduce the social distance to the counsellor. Rarely, they also directly request to be addressed more informally. Another finding is that counsellors sometimes fail to recipient-design their e-mails, which seems related to the use of prefabricated text or ‘forgetting’ which client preferred which recipient design.

Author Biography

Wyke Stommel, Radboud University

Wyke Stommel is currently Assistant Professor at the Centre for Language Studies, Radboud University, Nijmegen. In her research, she uses discourse analysis and conversation analysis to study aspects of online (health) communication in both professional and lay settings, such as online support group discussion, chat and e-mail counselling.



How to Cite

Stommel, W. (2013). Salutations, closings and pronouns: Some aspects of recipient design in online counselling. Communication and Medicine, 9(2), 145–158.