Never let it be said that we fail to listen to our readers. The eagle-eyed observers among you will have noticed that, for the last several weeks, this column has omitted the words "Morning all", which had until then been its customary introduction. That's because a lot of you didn't like it.
Dr Ann Kendell of Edinburgh wrote in on 7 December saying that "as someone who has bought The Independent since its very beginning and who enjoys reading your weekly letter”, she wanted to add her name to a recently published complaint about words that were “very irritating and inappropriate in the context".
"Are they meant to be jocular, informal, or just plain jokey?” she asked. Then came a suggestion: “How about ‘Good morning everyone?'"
And finally, the sucker punch: “You may think this is a very trivial matter but I think that The Independent should not read like the contents of The Sun."
Alas she wasn’t alone.
In November, Robert Hobbs of Richmond in Surrey pleaded: "It sounds unnecessarily blokish [sic] or as if he is parodying Dixon of Dock Green (a sort of early soap only remembered by your more mature readers)… I would be very happy for him to leave out this curious salutation."
Back in June, Boris Bunsen was much more scathing. "Dear Mr Rajan, Morning all. Now can you see how silly it is to begin a letter in this way? I repeat the point I made in my email of 17 May (unanswered): your column is read by individuals, not by groups of slack-jawed peasants peering over one another’s shoulders. Yours sincerely, Boris Bunsen."
Faced with such pleas, the "Morning all" is gone forever as my opening gambit. Expunged, eradicated, exterminated: never to return. I don’t want readers to feel “very irritated”, and if even one of them can be made “very happy” by the removal of this phrase, that seems worthwhile.
I only used it because one of my heroes, the Australian cricketer and commentator Richie Benaud, deployed it every morning when Test matches were still screened on terrestrial television.
It felt to me like an informal, inclusive hello, and I thought it appropriate to Saturday mornings, which are my favourite time of the week.
On seeing the message from Mr Hobbs, I did consult the oracle, Guy Keleny, whose judgement on these matters is second to none. He said he didn’t mind it: “I didn’t know about Richie Benaud, but I’m all for the Editor coming across as affably eccentric.”
So am I, as it happens – but not at the cost of annoying several of you. In the coming weeks, this column will reveal other tweaks to your newspaper designed to address your wishes. In the meantime, top of the morning to you. I think.Reuse content