“The proper definition of a man is an animal that writes letters.”
— Lewis Carroll
SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: I can still remember that somewhere in middle school, my class was taught how to write a business letter. The closing— the bit right above one's signature —was always and invariably, "Sincerely."
Fast-forward many years later, to working as an assistant at Random House in New York. I was stunned by the differences in closings the editors would use! There was, "All best wishes," which was sometimes shortened to "All best," or even, "Best."
There was "Cheers" — definitely from the Brits, but also often by scientists, regardless of nationality.
With women editors, there were sometimes various combinations
of x's and o's, especially with the signature. (One editor I worked for invariably signed off with "xx [name redacted.]" I mean, even if she wrote to the Pope or the Queen of England, I think she'd put those xx's in.)
Then there was another editor I worked for, the legendary Jason Epstein. His words of wisdom to me went back to what I was taught in middle school: "Always use yours sincerely. Unless you want to be clear you're angry. Then a simple 'sincerely' will suffice." (This was, of course, before the days of email.)
As a forty-something woman working in publishing, generally sending letters by email, I'm still looking for the perfect closing. "Yours sincerely" looks rather formal on a computer screen, "cheers" can look pretentious if you're not British, all those x's and o's are great for friends, but not, say, the editorial director of your publishing house. I find myself falling back on the variations of "All best wishes" — which I don't love, but seems serviceable at least.
Is there a perfect letter closing out there that I've missed? Does anyone have any ideas for me? Reds, what do *you* use?
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Sighing here. This is so annoying, and I agree, why isn't it easy?I have long used "xo Hank" in signing, and over the past few months I've begun to morph away from it. It seems--childlike. (I still do it with the closest friends. More xoxoxo for closer friends. And sometimes: Love you madly.)
But what's the polite/business alternative? "Thanks" is good, and I often use that, but there are times it can't stand alone. For fans (!) I put "with much affection." "All best" is one I often use...can't go wrong with that. (Of course, in some cases: With much love to all. Or--Love. But not for business.)
"Sincerely" seems insincere. And sometimes it feels as if it means just the opposite. VTY? Very truly yours? (As if you have to say so?)
I suppose the question is: what ARE we trying to say? Wouldn't it be funny if we closed by really telling the truth?
Like: Hoping you agree, Hank. Or: Crossing fingers you love this, Hank. Or: Please answer as quickly as possible because I am dying to know, Hank.
OR: Hoping I haven't made any career-ending typos, Hank.
RHYS BOWEN: I was raised to close with "Yours Sincerely" when the letter was to someone I knew and the more formal "Yours faithfully" at the end of a business letter. I'm not sure what "Yours truly" was for. Somewhere in between, I think.
In past generations, it was even more formal. "I remain, sir, your humble servant/devoted admirer/esteemed associate." These days I'm guilty of "All best". Or even "All good wishes" to people I want to be warm to. Xxxx to those who really are close friends. I'm never sure what to put on a business letter Just my name, I think.
Sometimes it seems silly to me to even sign my name on an e-mail, since the recipient can tell who it is from. And especially if it's a brief exchange.
"What time will you be here?"
See you then
I mean, is that necessary?
I think I'll revert to my heritage and end with "cheers" from now on.
HALLIE EPHRON: Oh, Susan, you're taking me back to my typing class where we learned to put the return address flush right on top, then the date, then flush left the name and address of the person to whom you were writing. And you were supposed to start "Dear Sir or Madame" if you didn't know who it was. It all seems so cumbersome now.
Now I close with whatever feels right for the context.
All the best
Thank you for your kind attention
Looking forward to meeting you
See you soon!
xxoo (for friends)
xxooxxooxxoo (for daughters)
Smeerpies (also for daughters)
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I have a standard email close that I
always use: "Yours". I can amend that to "Gratefully Yours" or "Apologetically Yours", and I've always felt it's a good balance between formal and modern. For friends and family, I usually close emails with -Julia or -J. Hank, I always love seeing your xoxo Hank - it cheers me up and it's so you. And Rhys, if I'm doing a back and forth, I drop a closing and my name entirely by the second or third email. I figure at that point, you're really messaging and texting, and you certainly don't sign off on those.
(Except for Ross, who doesn't text much, and always tacks on XO Ross or Love R on his messages. It's kind of sweet, but if he did it twenty times a day, it could get annoying fast.)
In written letters, I also you "Yours" and of course "Love" to intimates. When I was younger - in the days when we all wrote a lot more letters - I fell in love with "I remain your," and "I remain." To go along with my previous suggestion that we start pushing great 1920s British slang, I propose we bring back "I remain your faithful servant, [name]." Just imagine how thrilled your editor would be to see THAT closing on your email!
LUCY BURDETTE: All this shows that I am (once again) hopelessly out of date. Because I've gotten used to finally using Hank and Hallie's xxoo etc. And now it's childish...sigh. I don't use it for business of course, but maybe for pals and family and fans who've written me something lovely. Otherwise, I go with "Warmly" or "All very best." I don't like Cheers, unless, like Rhys, it really fits the person.
Yours seeking any available reasonable suggestions, Lucy (xxoo)
SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Julia, I love "I remain your faithful servant"! My editor would get such a kick out of that! I just came up with "Happy trails" — because, you know, sort of funny and kitsch — but again, probably not great for someone making big decisions about your books. "So Long and Thanks for All the Fish"? Alas, only Douglas Adams fans would get it. Are formal letters the perfect opportunity for Hank's, "Hope I haven't made any career-ending typos"? I can work with that....
Lovely Readers, how do you close your letters? What do you think? Tell us in the comments!