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One of our Text building blocks used to say:

Welcome to tex.sx! Note that it is unusual to have any greeting.

to put as a comment under questions which start "Dear all,". To me this comment sounds like

Hello. Don't say hello.

Two discussion points came up to me:

  1. Although I think we should encourage users to write clean questions, we also want to make them feel welcome, and I wonder if having their first feedback from the community be a reprimand for their use of a simple greeting accomplishes that.

  2. The word "unusual" strikes me as underscoring the newbie's newbieness, since they obviously don't know what's usual.

I edited that block to say

Welcome to tex.sx! It's not necessary to sign your questions (as there is already a box with your username below it) or to begin them with a greeting.

but it could still use some work. I left out "Note that" since it doesn't make any difference in the sentence and only serves to make the writer sound/seem important.

"Customary" might be a better replacement for "usual", although "uncustomary" doesn't really have the right connotation either. Perhaps it's better to say "It's customary around here to do X instead of Y" rather than "It's unusual/uncustomary to do Y".

I know not all users (questioners and answerers) are native English users, so please don't take offense with my nitpicks over word choices. But I might be tweaking the building blocks more to improve the effect they're designed for.

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    It's great that a native speaker takes care of this. "not customary" sound good to me as a non-native speaker. Regarding the "Hello. Don't say hello.": I don't have any problems with it; one could be more specific and say "Don't say hello in questions and answers. One last thing: If the old text comes over as "a reprimand for their use of a simple greeting", then this is very bad indeed. It should be something friendly, just explaining why the intro/closing was removed. I thought it's unfriendly to remove this without a comment. – Hendrik Vogt Mar 11 '11 at 14:10
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    To me "unusual" does have a connotation similar to "odd" or "strange" or "abnormal". So I would advise avoiding it in this context. I understand your feeling about that kind of edit deserving a comment. "not necessary" seems best for negatives, and "customary" for positives. – Matthew Leingang Mar 11 '11 at 17:15
  • Did you know that we have this very new feature that would ensure I'd get notified, or did you just forget the "@Hendrik"? Thanks for the explanation about "unusual". I wouldn't have dreamt of such connotations. I'm OK with "not necessary"; can you explain what is not that good about "not customary"? – Hendrik Vogt Mar 11 '11 at 17:23
  • @Hendrik: Sorry, just forgot. I can't put my finger on what I don't like about "not customary." To me (and I keep repeating this because I think we're going beyond broad connotations and getting more into my personal philosophy), saying something is customary is telling the listener how to fit in. saying something that the listener has done isn't customary is telling them that they don't fit in. Saying something isn't necessary at least acknowledges that they are trying to fit in. – Matthew Leingang Mar 11 '11 at 20:47
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Of course there is this from the FAQ:

Can I use a signature or tagline?

Please don’t use signatures or taglines in your posts. Every post you make is already "signed" with your standard user card, which links directly back to your user page. Your user page belongs to you — fill it with information about your interests, links to stuff you’ve worked on, or whatever else you like!

It does not explicitly mention greetings, but the same logic applies. You could just cite the faq and leave out the "welcome!" part.

(should we update the global /faq to include mention of greetings?)

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    I'm actually not trying to optimize the welcoming process. I like the idea of a pointer to the FAQ, but not in lieu of "Welcome!" I agree the global FAQ should be updated. And our local one too should have a section on how to write good questions. – Matthew Leingang Mar 11 '11 at 20:56

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