Have you ever found yourself writing an email and as you reach the closing, you find you do not know how to sign off or say goodbye? Do you find that ‘Sincerely’ is too formal and ‘cheers’ is too informal?
Never fear, I am here.
Let me explain.
In school you are taught how to write a letter and if you are of the internet generation, you probably were also taught how to write an e-mail. That’s all well and good, but here is where it gets interesting. To end a letter you have to use what is referred to as a ‘complimentary close’ or ‘closing’ (for the purposes of this post I will refer to it as the letter ending(s)).
Such words as ‘Sincerely yours’, ‘Yours truly’, ‘With esteem’, ‘With love’ and so on seem picked right out of a Victorian epistolary novel (i.e. a novel written in the form of letters).
While writing an application or a formal letter and ending it with ‘Sincerely’ may seem natural and appropriate, it is nevertheless too formal. And ending it otherwise seems strange, but the formulaic ‘Sincerely yours’ is a little too archaic. Underscore archaic, because it is. Have you ever wondered why? Well, of course you have, the problem is the medium. It changed from written letters that took weeks (or days if you were lucky), to zap – instantaneous inbox messages to be retrieved seconds (or minutes) after it is sent.
The challenge is that email has not been around long enough to have a standard formula to its form. Because it is similar to snail mail letters, we have adopted the same formulas. But since it is not exactly the same, the form and its formulas have not been agreed upon. By whom? you might ask. Well, by everyone. You know the it ‘feels right to me’ part of language. Or the subconscious rules of language that speakers have or learn.
This leads me to:
The English Language Conundrum
Since the feeling of rightness is mostly a native speakers prerogative, what happens when most of the speakers of a language are non-native or semi-native speakers? What happens if a language is used as a Lingua Franca throughout the internet?
We get the feeling of insecurity in language or, drum roll please, language change! And that implies no one is really sure how to do simple things, like writing the ending of a letter.
So what to do?
Well try and find the endings that feel adequate, you never know you might be one of the people who starts the standardization of writing emails in the language.
And to get you started here are some examples of endings with their pros and cons:
1- Sincerely: adequate for formal emails, even though it still sounds a bit archaic.For job interview purposes, letters of complaint, letters to companies, or other emails sent to people who wear suits and/or you do not know but want to write formally to.
2- All the best/best: adequate for slightly less formal emails, e.g., to your boss, professor, or teacher.
3- Regards or Kind Regards: like All the best, this one is also for slightly less formal occasions, but can be used instead of ‘Sincerely’ when addressing persons unknown. It is also used because it seems less archaic than ‘Sincerely’.
4- Bye: Exclusively used for friends and family, however, it also does not seem quite right to end an email with bye, and truthfully, I have no idea why: anyone?
5- Cheers: Personally, cheers reminds me of glasses of wine chinking after a long evening of full glasses having chinked and having run out of toasts. I use it for friends and acquaintances and sometimes cringe internally at not finding an adequately friendly ending to an email. But it is a perfectly acceptable informal ending.
6- Love/Luv/xoxox/Kisses/emoticons: Friends and family only! Another one in this category is stinging together some x’s which means kisses. Which might lead to the confusing xxx, which is another related matter but still different, and these should not be confused… I think.
7- Omitting the ending: There are a couple of reasons you might want to do this. First is, you have been writing emails back and fourth to the same person on the same topic or subject, and the emails are all neatly gathered in a string of emails. There is no need to say good bye because technically the ‘conversation’ is still open. Second reason, you are so confused about ‘complimentary closings’ that when you write them your brain explodes in a way lay of confusing contraindicating thoughts, thus leading you to ignore the problem and just put your name at the end of the e-mail, hoping the receiver is not too offended by your letter writing faux-pas and will still invite you to the ball they are hosting next week.
If you are still confused, do not worry you might only have to wait a couple of years before this issue is resolved, meanwhile have three standard endings, one for formal occasions, one for semi-formal and one for informal. You can really never go wrong if you are consistent and polite.
If you are reading this and think: Hell she has absolutely no idea what she’s talking about and I know how to write email endings then feel free to leave a comment, or even better, blog about it and leave a link to your post so I can reblog.
And if you have had a language breakthrough and have discovered or come up with the perfect formula to ending letters, please share because you are a genius.
To all of you confused email enders have a good day,
Most appreciatively, sincerely and devotedly yours,