Monday, July 11, 2016

"Yours sincerely" or "So Long and Thanks for All the Fish?" Reds on Closings

“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?"
Twelve thirty
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!
Be good...
Send news
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!


  1. These days, the whole process of correspondence has changed so much that knowing what closing to use is a bit of a conundrum. [But "Happy Trails" makes me smile; those are good memories.]

    Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m going to be much help since most of the letters I write are to family and I always write “Love” or “All my Love Always.” [Of course, my Virginia granddaughter is the only exception to that; she would be devastated if I failed to write, “Love you mostest,” a reference to a game we used to play when she lived with us and I’d tuck her in at night.]

    For letters to anyone other than family, I confess to falling back on those typing class lessons where “Sincerely” was expected. Sometimes, however, I use “Best wishes” for informal correspondence . . . .

  2. In high school I was taught "Very truly yours" (which sounds to me like something from a Victorian Valentine card) for business letters" and "Sincerely" or "Sincerely yours" for friends and family. My brother- a scientist - signs emails " Cheers" or "Love", and seems to use "Love" for things like birthday cards. In my office, the practice is to sign letters "Sincerely". For family and close friends, I usually sign "Love", or "Take care", and for the closest friends "Hugs".

    Very truly yours with hugs and love,
    Deb Romano

    Very tr

  3. Deb, don't you think more Victorian valentines might help right about now?

    X's and O's, in any combination, are better than nothing, especially for friends. And I don't think they're childish.

    I'm not a fan of "yours" in any form, unless the missive is to my husband. Best regards is probably my favorite, these days.

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  5. As a previous poster wrote, I was taught to close a business letter with "very truly yours" and a personal letter with "sincerely."
    I still close business letters with VTY and since I'm currently unemployed :-( I've been using that close a lot! However, in my personal correspondence, both electronic and snail mail (yes, I do STILL put pen to paper, put paper in envelopes, lick envelopes, affix stamps, and drop envelopes into mailboxes!) I close with my actual feelings. So many times I close with "all my love," sometimes it's "take care," and sometimes it's something totally different. I'm still a believer that the written word has some permanency and I still imbue my communications with my actual feelings, so I'm thoughtful about my closings. I don't know if the recipients register what closing I've used, but since I mostly write to people I care about, I assume they know me well enough to appreciate that I mean what I write.

  6. Jerry@thecloakanddagger.comJuly 11, 2016 at 7:40 AM

    Sincerely(on formal biz letters) or best(on informal & short notes) to nothing but my name on really short notes.

  7. I also was taught "Yours truly" for business letters, and
    "Sincerely yours" or some variation thereof for personal correspondence. On the rare occasion I write one now, I continue that. Perhaps it dates me, but then I am older than dirt so no surprise.

    Missiles to family are always closed with "Love" and "xox." But for friends I prefer "a bientot." This is my current favorite. The French are good at this sort of thing, using terms that indicate they look forward to the next contact. Au revoir, a demain, etc. I also like "ciao", particularly since I've learned to spell it. Also for my Spanish speaking friends, I say or write "adios" and "hasta luego."

    Mind you I speak none of these languages. I just like to pretend I can.

    A bientot mes amies


  8. I was taught to close letters with "Very truly yours." Within the past decade or so I decided that I didn't like that and started going with "Sincerely." Although sometimes I will sign a letter with "Take care." Actually meaning for that person to take care of themselves as I like them and want all to be well with them. My daughter thinks that signing a letter using "take care" is a no-no and sounds like hey, take care of yourself cause I don't plan on talking to you again or seeing you anytime too soon. Which is the complete opposite of what I mean to say when I sign a letter, "Take care." Does signing as "Take care" sound like a brush off to others, too?

  9. And no, "take care" doesn't sound like a brush off to me, either.

    As I'm reading this, I'm thinking how far a closing two or three words can go to soften the the impact of the short, curt, brusque way we WRITE notes these days (I know, it's because people are typing on cell phones but still it can feel so dismissive when you send a chatty email and get back a one word response).

    xx (I like it and I'm sticking with it.)

  10. Usually "All the best" or "Many thanks" depending on the situation. I used to use "Cheers" but then that started to feel too sprightly and somewhat affected, since - though I worked in the UK - I'm not British. If it's kind of a serious, personal topic, perhaps "Take care". To family members, "Love you", to old and close friends "Hugs" and XXOO.
    Some closings like "Best regards" or "Yours truly" or "Sincerely yours" seem out of date, formal and strange to me. From high school typing class, as Hallie mentioned. For some reason, I react poorly to "Good luck". It always seems to me that it should be followed by something like "you poor sod" - as if you really could use that good luck!
    If I am going to be seeing the person "See you soon", occasionally "Looking forward" - as a book club member often signs hers.
    Interesting, fun topic! Thanks. M.

  11. Hmmm.I'm fine with take care..

    And i just got an informal business email signed "Thanks and best.. ". Which seemed to work.

    Xxxx? okay--I'm back to believing.

  12. cordially for for business purposes// Thanks for your attention when I am 'begging' for something.// Walk in Beauty for friends.

  13. I always close with. Blessings. One of my favorite authors (Viki Hinze) taught me that. I feel it is very appropriate for all occasions. Blessings, Janet

  14. Marian Stanley, I feel the same about Good luck--always erase it and replace it with something like "Best of luck" or "Wishing the best of luck to you."

    Take care, love you--to close friends and family

    xoxo's when the receiving person needs some hugs and kisses--or to little ones

    And just plain old 'Sincerely' for impersonal business letters.

  15. I tend to end with "thanks in advance" if I've asked a favor. Otherwise it is usually something like "hope you're having a great summer" or "stay warm" ( in the winter) or "see you soon" or "safe travels" -- something that reflects whatever we've been corresponding about.

  16. Hi Everyone! I just remembered how Tigger from Winnie the Pooh would end things -- TTFN -- Ta ta for now! xxoo S.

  17. For business, I use "Kindest regards." For personal or casual, it depends on the content of the note. I often use "More later" or "Au revoir."

  18. I tend to use "best" for the most part, or "best regards" if I am feeling fancy. "All best wishes" on occasion.

    I'm fond of the word "best," I guess.

  19. I was taught to close business letters with "sincerely" back in high school. I tend to close business-y correspondence (including query letters) with "Regards" these days because "Sincerely" seems - bland. Mostly, this is for people I don't know. If I know you, or the purpose of the letter is business but we "know" each other personally, I often use just my name.

    For close friends/family it's always "Love, MB" (Mary Beth, which is how all my family and friends know me).

    Emails at work - simply "Mary" on the first couple and then I tend to drop them. I never sign texts.

    Hank, if you ever drop your "xoxo" or "love you madly" I shall be most disappointed!

  20. xoxo Mary! And yes, I have changed my mind. I'm keeping it. xo I use See you soon, too, or Hope our paths cross in person soon.. (If I really am seeing them, or really hoping..)

    But then--it seems as if it still needs something else.

  21. I see "Regards" more and more. I guess if they really like me it's "Best Regards."

    Hank - please don't stop the xoxo - it's so you and makes us feel so special!

  22. In my law office email, we generally don't close with anything but our name. Some firms have their logo in the signature line. Really? It's just about conveying information; it isn't about how prestigious we want to appear.

    For hard-copy letters at the law office, I sign "Cordially" -- it's a joke since I'm as cordial as a pitbull.

    For emails between writers, Hank's xoxo has caught on.

  23. Oh yes, Hank -- please do keep the xoxo -- I was only complaining about my then-boss, who really overused them, and with no thought behind them.... YOU make them fun!

  24. I also like getting letters signed xoxox from people I care about. Like you, Reds!
    I think it's perfect for dear friends. More appropriate than "love" which is a little too lovey.
    I remain, my darlings, your faithful servant

  25. So much has changed since those distant days in the fifties when I learned to write a letter. At Girls' Latin School in Boston we were taught to use "sincerely" in casual letters only. "Very truly yours", "yours truly"' or "cordially" were to be used in formal correspondence.
    While sometimes I'm glad to be free of all the strict conventions, I am stuck with the problem you describe, Susan. I find myself using "cheers". Maybe it's because I'm from Boston. Thanks to the previous comments I now have some alternatives.
    Take care,
    All the Best,
    Many Thanks,
    See you Soon,
    Thanks and Best,

  26. Thanks, all, for making me giggle. I LOVE "I remain your faithful servant."

    I did business school letters, too, and could never understand why people you didn't know at all were "yours truly" and people you knew somewhat were "sincerely." I might be "yours truly" to my hubbie or to someone I like a whole lot, but otherwise, no.

    To strangers, perhaps "sincerely." For a little less formal, but not up to xoxo, "all the best" or "best."

    Although I do use xo and many combinations thereof, picked up originally from British friends. To really close friends, "hugs" or "love". To my daughter, "Love you bunches."

    Hallie, I must know what smeerpies are????

    I remain your faithful servant, so TTNA, so long and thanks for all the fish xoxox


  27. I use "Very truly yours" on business correspondence, unless I'm trying to effect an amicable settlement for a client, or an amicable negotiation, or it's a query letter when I'm hoping the editor will like me and my proposal-- then I often use "Cordially."

    I'm afraid I'm guilty of continuing an e-mail conversation-- once the ice is broken-- with "Hi, (First Name)" which I think is better than, "Hey, (First Name)," something I seem to receive fairly often. Such notes usually end with "Best" or "Cordially," or just with my initials.

    Alas, some e-mails are merely a curt response, such as "Will do" or "Got it" or "See you then," without any signature, or perhaps with my initials.

    Family and close friends may get the "xoxo" treatment-- but I'm just as likely to merely sign my initial/initials with no adjectival sign-off. Or not sign my name or initial at all, since they have the sender's name on the e-mail, and if they're close enough, they know from my address who is saying, "Do you want to come over and pick up some fresh dill? I have way too much."

    Ciao for niao.

  28. When I was a kid, I was taught to write Sincerely then my name. Start with To Whom It May Concern for business letters. For family, it was Love then my name.

    In college, my boyfriend ended his letter with "your faithful servant" then proclaire (French word) when we broke up.

    When I read royal biographies, I remember a royal child would write "your affectionate niece" at the end.

    I have mixed feelings about the good luck ending.

    About text messages, most of it are abbreviations of words.

    I see things like xoxo or regards as part of the writer's personality.

    And Hank, keep the xoxo because that is who you are.

    Diana xoxo

  29. Keenan, now I'll be giggling all day about the fact that you are as cordial as a pit bull! And XO for now

  30. TTFN (ta ta for now) because I don't have business replies, so works great for friends!

  31. Clearly, what we need is an Emily Post for our times to set the standards for email correspondence. Although presumably it will all shake down in the end.

    I've lived through the era when Americans stopped saying "Goodbye" (Why? Who knows.) and a variety of conversation endings slipped in. Over the last few decades, we seem to have universally settled on "Have a nice day" (or afternoon, or evening.) Some folks still grumble about it, but I suspect by the time Youngest is my age, it will be appearing in etiquette books!

  32. In 7th grade, I was class secretary and I remember having to rewrite and rewrite the thank you letters because I came up with MANY variations in spelling the word "sincerely" -- what could they have been? I would have loved to use xxoo!

  33. On the serious side: At my Uncle Fran's funeral, the priest--who knew him well--talked about how he always signed his letters "As ever, Fran." That closing said so much about my uncle, that he was steadfast and dependable, a friend who would always be there when needed. I'd love to find a personal closing that is appropriate and fits me, as Hank's "xo Hank" does. I usually default to "Thank you for..." in business communications, but you can't go wrong with "Sincerely" unless the content of your communication clearly is not. - Mo

  34. Loved this posting. I use "Best wishes" to friends, "Hugs" to very good friends," "Sincerely" to lying politicians, "Regretfully" to people I'm saying no to, "Hopefully" to people I've asked to do something -- really, adverbs are quite useful. And of course, lots of xxooo and the occasional ♥.

  35. OH dear, Margaret. Now I'm wondering if you ever finished off a note to me with"sincerely"
    I also use "hugs" sometimes especially to friend who have had bad news.

  36. A couple people mentioned ciao, which I love as a sign off for email. But what struck me on my trip to Europe was how many Germans and Czecks used it as a greeting. Once I left Italy I did not expect to be greeted or sent away with "ciao".

    So I guess if it's good enough for the Eurozone, it's good enough for Americans.

  37. When I'm corresponding with my Hawaii pals, I almost always use "Aloha." Otherwise, it may be "Best" or Hank's "xoxo". Mine usually depends on what I get from someone else. I've noticed many people these days are simply dropping the closing altogether. In any case,

  38. My favorite boss after college, often wrote Thanks so much! at the end of letters, which I liked, though I have no problem with sincerely, and wish we had more sincerity.
    I had a problem with salutations, "Dear sirs:" for unknown recipients, especially knowing that most correspondence was handled by women, so my feminist self addressed letters to "Dear people:" with the bonus of being memorable when I had to do follow up.
    Lately, when writing to friends, I often end with "hugs" because we really need them.
    Hugs <3

  39. I'm glad to see I'm in such good company. I have trouble ending notes too. Sincerely and Yours truly sound impersonal but polite. I frequently end with Thank you, since my notes tend to be for that reason. I do love Your humble servant. And thanks for all the fish.

  40. I second, third, fourth Hank continuing to use xo. It always gives me a lift, and I would miss it terribly if you quit, Hank. In fact, there are several authors who do that and it makes me happy.

    Susan, "Happy Trails" sounds like a great sign-off. I may have to steal that one sometimes. I always want to sign off with something quirky or different, but the communication is often not conducive to anything but a standard goodbye. In emails, I often just put my name at the end without anything else, unless it be a xo or a "Take care."

  41. Oh, you are all making me feel wonderful. Truly. I--aw. Thank you. xxoxo

    And yay, Margaret. A splendid use for adverbs. Ridiculously yours Triumphantly yours Hilariously yours Excitedly yours
    Love it. xooxo

  42. And I agree, Mary. We do need hugs, and we DO need sincerely.

  43. "Take care" if it's not someone I feel comfortable sending love to. My rare business emails either omit any closing or have something like "thank you for your help." It sounds like maybe I need to get more creative with family and friends though.

  44. I use too many Xs and Os. I have cut back a little and no longer capitalize them. Just remembered did that last night, but it was from my kitty to my friend's kitty. That's okay. Right? Hearts, though! I need hearts.

    xoxoxxx <3

    Love you!

  45. I had to go back and look at my closings! Apparently, my failsafe is "regards", but I have used "cheers" with Brit colleagues (because they do) and "yours" with friends.
    And mostly the only one who gets Xs or Os is my partner, unless I'm having a moment. It happens sometimes!

  46. I sign most everything "LLL" it stands for love,love,love ... My husband used to sit beside our daughter's playpen every morning before leaving for work and several times he would say "love,love,love". He wanted that to be her first sentence and it was. We had three older children, all boys. Now the whole family uses this, or L<3. Love is what counts and it's our way to honor a great Husband and Dad now in Heaven...Vicki Heelan