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Marissa Lingen

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In Defense of Closings [Aug. 22nd, 2016|05:54 am]
Marissa Lingen

One of my college friends linked to this article from her Facebook, excoriating people who use the email closing, “Best.” The article is full of hyperbole. (“It seems harmless enough,” says the author in the beginning, and then writes an entire article that fails to even suggest any actual harm done to any person, animal, plant, or ecosystem by closing an email with “Best.”) The author’s main objections to “Best” seem to be that it is rote and bland, and worse–oh, so much worse–she suggests just not closing your emails at all, in imitation of text/IM.

People. People. That is what is worst about text/IM as a medium. You can be chattering away with someone you like and then–no more chatter. Are they done? Are they just taking a minute to think? If you wander off, will they have more to say on this subject that they will say to an empty room, or will you be the one sitting there thinking, “…I guess we’re done here? maybe?” Obviously this is not true of “leaving the house be there in 10” or similar texts/IMs. But actual conversations–“goodbye” messages, closings of various kinds, give you very valuable information. “I am going away now. Do not expect more of me here. We’re done for the moment. I like you, but no more words now.”

At my house, “good night” doesn’t always mean “I am going to sleep this very minute.” It means “I’m done being sociable for the day, you don’t have to think about whether you’ve started the dishwasher inconveniently, etc.” It is a polite and affectionate “done now.” And it is very useful to know when the person you’re talking to is done for the day. (The more so if their sleep and your sleep don’t nearly line up, so you can’t just guess that now is the time when everyone is tired.)

So…does this have to be heartfelt every time? Sometimes you have a heartfelt “Thanks.” Sometimes you really do mean, “Love.” Great times, those. But “This email did not get cut off accidentally” is also valuable information, and “DONE NOW” is really not considered appropriate for business communications. Rote and bland are the goal here. Rote and bland are what you’re going for. “–30–” would be fine if it would be accepted. “Mris out.” Whatever. “This is my acceptable business closing, Marissa.” Fine–if it would work, no reason not to.

So yeah, the least I’m going to do is sign it “m.” Unless we’re going back and forth with emails quite quickly, I generally want to sign it. I want some indication: yes, I meant to be done. And further–suggesting that people just not sign things doesn’t really feel functional if you’re getting formally structured, signed emails from the other party–so then you’re kicked back to “what do I use to sign it?” And really–we have an obsession with creativity and deep sincerity in every aspect of our lives that is just completely misplaced. Sometimes you can greet people with “hey” or “morning” even if you did not come up with this heartfelt greeting just for them, just for this morning. Spending your time trying to come up with yet another “howdy” variant will leave you cribbing from Woody Guthrie and still not making a heartfelt and unique entrance every time. Sometimes the done thing is the thing to do. Dialog can be marked with “said.” Emails can be closed with “thanks” or “best” or “cheers” even if you do not literally wish to express heartfelt gratitude, you only wish the receiver some of your best, and you would not raise a glass to them given the opportunity. It’s okay. Really it is. Just give the necessary information, indicate that you’re done, and move on.

When I was talking to Tim about this the other night, he said, “I often close with, ‘here’s what I want to happen.'” That feels more like a last paragraph than a closing to me, but more power to you if you’ve got it. It also made me giggle thinking of doing this in chatty emails with friends: “Here’s what I want to happen: you feel like your friend [me] cares about you and you have a good time of it until I talk to you again, and also maybe you think some more about whether the structure of this series requires the books to be slow-paced now, let me know.”

In the middle of writing this post, I got an email from a friend that their phone had cut off in the middle. And it was not signed, and this friend signs their emails, so I knew there was more coming. And there was. SEE? Yes. That.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux


[User Picture]From: supergee
2016-08-22 11:06 am (UTC)
I sign off letters and zines with "Excelsior," which also means "neutral filler material."
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2016-08-22 11:32 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: redbird
2016-08-22 01:26 pm (UTC)
I often wind up signing emails with just my name, from relatively chatty one to the very formulaic

"Here is my invoice for xxx.
Please remit.
Thank you.

It's 2016, people. Bandwidth for plain-text email messages is not a scarce resource.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2016-08-22 01:32 pm (UTC)
I would say "Thank you" is the closing there, but I can easily imagine, "The flight arrives at 7:30. Vicki," as a similar example.
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[User Picture]From: sartorias
2016-08-22 01:27 pm (UTC)
I thought I was the only one who sat here thinking, so they're done with me? Should I wait here? I've tried to train myself out of something like "Gotta go now, take care," as the rest of the world seemed to think that too much.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2016-08-22 01:31 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I have gotten the taken-aback reaction to "off to make supper, talk to you later" or other IM/text sign-offs too. And yet I am not going to take my phone into the shower, or mess with it while I'm chopping raw chicken, or driving, or etc. So there are all sorts of times when, really, DONE NOW. It's not just you.
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[User Picture]From: whswhs
2016-08-22 05:04 pm (UTC)
I routinely use both salutations and closings in e-mail, particularly when I'm originating it.

With initial business correspondence, I prefer to end with "Very truly yours." (I dislike "Sincerely," because it seems to emphasize the sincerity of the correspondent's feelings over the verity of their statements.) As correspondence progresses, I tend to shift to "Best wishes." To friends, I often use "I remain, Sir/Madam, believe me, your humble and devoted servant," and subsequently "I remain, &c."—unless I feel whimsical and say "BCNU!" ("Friend" for this purpose is something I think will appreciate that I'm using an archaic form, partly ironically, but partly because I feel that the older formal language more fully expresses the substance of friendship—and that I'm the sort of mildly pedantic person who would know and like the archaicism.)

I remain, &c.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2016-08-23 04:22 am (UTC)

"- g"

I've been doing a variant on your "m" for ... well, for a damned long time now. And now I know why I haven't stopped doing, despite sometimes thinking that, well, my correspondents know who the email is from from the "From" line, don't they?

But that ain't the point; nice to have my instincts confirmed.

- g

(P.S. That last was a one-off. Somehow it doesn't seem necessary in a comment on a blog.)
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2016-08-23 03:09 pm (UTC)

Re: "- g"

I don't usually sign blog comments where they have attribution, either. But blog comments are often editable, so if I get cut off, I can go back and make it say what I meant it to say in the first place.
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[User Picture]From: takumashii
2016-08-23 05:11 am (UTC)
These sorts of articles make me [even more] anxious, because it seems like one doesn't have all that many alternatives, among

1) Use some sort of send-off that other people will nitpick for being cliche or inaccurate or insufficiently sincere or whatever;

2) Delay the email for several days because you keep looking at it and thinking "is 'Best' okay? Is there something different I should be saying that isn't 'Best'?"

3) Be magically spontaneously kind and sincere and polite in every single email that I send, without having to think about it too hard.

The only way I ever manage to send any professional email, in truth, is to say to myself, "You have opened with 'Hello, I hope you are doing well,' and you have closed with 'Best,' you are not being monumentally rude, it is all right to just send the thing."

I own a book of Japanese set formulas for business emails, with all the polite openings and closings that you need. It's very reassuring.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2016-08-23 03:08 pm (UTC)
I challenge this anxiety to single combat! The nitpickers are the ones in the wrong. You are fine.

This is what formulaic conversation and in fact the entire field of etiquette is for: to make sure that people do not have to waste bandwidth on something like this. "Am I being correct?" Yes. Onward.
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[User Picture]From: adrian_turtle
2016-08-23 03:38 pm (UTC)
When I am talking to a stranger, I don't want to say, "bye-bye." It would convey the right meaning, without confusion or exaggeration, but I'm afraid it would not make me look good. And thus the the potential client would roll their eyes and not hire me. Or the person on the town meeting committee would disregard my crank complaint.
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[User Picture]From: ethelmay
2016-08-25 10:34 pm (UTC)
Tangent: that reminds me that the only political robocall I have ever listened to voluntarily, all the way through, was one from Barack Obama. He ended it "Bye-bye." Cracked me up.
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From: aamcnamara
2016-08-26 08:05 pm (UTC)
Augh yes. Being able to just sign it "best" helps so much when you need to have some closing other than your name (because it's a work-related/business email, for formality reasons) but they have not done anything you should thank them for and you haven't asked them any favors. "Sincerely" in an email just rings wrong to me somehow. And I send...rather a lot of work-related emails these days. Is it a formula? Yes, they are all formulas! The majority of communication takes place via formulas! I bet this person hates being asked how they are when the asker doesn't really want to know, too. (To be fair I myself used to hate that, but I have changed my views.)
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