DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am based in the Washington, D.C., area and must correspond with colleagues all over the world, particularly in Europe. When I log in for the day, I see correspondence from them already because of the time difference.
When I respond, should I greet them by writing "Good morning," even though it is well into their afternoon? Or should I write "Good afternoon"?
GENTLE READER: Knowing your correspondent's time zone is not enough to determine when your response will be read, which is why such greetings as "Dear Sir" and "My dearest love" date back to communications that could take months to arrive, sometimes still damp from a storm at sea.
But the question you raise is important for real-time communication across time zones. "Good afternoon" is shorthand for wishing that your recipient have a good afternoon, a sentiment that Miss Manners feels will make more sense if you adopt the time zone of the recipient.