In a recent post on one of these forums, there was some sidebar discussion about the usage of dear. Someone mentioned that they found the usage off-putting. I'm not sure I agree...the only time people call me dear seems to be waitresses, and then I feel young and somehow complimented.

Regarding "Sir", as an AmE speaker, I often find that form of address irritating. Even in initial contact, it puts a distance between people that doesn't exist before that. When reading it in forums here, it seems overly formal. In any letter addressed to Sir/madam, I can assume that the person doesn't know me, and hasn't even spent the time to research my gender. In a retail/restaurant setting the address seems perfectly fine.

Is there a way to convey the correct respect to someone without using that form of address?

What do other English speakers feel?
Gordon, as a naval officer, I was caleld "ma'am" from the time I was 22 years old. A bit younger, actually. So I never had the weirdness of being called something formal - it's just how I was addressed.

The only thing I really truly hate is "Dude" - not just because I'm female but because I find it intensely disrespectful and overly familiar.

I don't like "Dear" in the chat room because of the "pick up" connotations over being too familiar.
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sir and maam is a bit formal..but it depends on the situation..and yes..the culture....
Old Man GordonWhat do other English speakers feel?
From people I don't know, I don't like to be called sir, dear, dude, or buddy. Or hey!And probably a few others that aren't coming to mind just now. Emotion: smile