Order your copy of Minding Miss Manners now.

Miss Manners by Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Whose Time Zone Is It, Anyway?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When conversing with someone who is many time zones away, what is the proper greeting? For example, if it is my morning and their afternoon, should I say “good morning” or “good afternoon”?

The prevailing advice seems to be that you should just use “hello.” But if the other party greets you first with “good (time of day),” replying with “hello” seems inappropriate because it is not parallel to the greeting you received. A British colleague suggested “good day,” but that phrase is so uncommonly used in American English that it seems too stiff.

GENTLE READER: Although it is a formality, the literal meaning of the greeting is to wish someone good fortune for a specific period of time. Telling a British friend, over the phone, to have a good day is therefore unlikely to be effective, as his or her day is likely already coming to a close. “Good evening” would be more appropriate in that case.

Miss Manners notes that in addition to the logic in offering wishes for a good evening, it provides an opportunity for you to recognize that you are aware you have interrupted dinner -- something you would not have done if the subject of the call were not so urgent.