November 15, 2009


This is the first post in a three part guest series by PNT.

Letter closings are a not inconsequential part of writing a letter, but there’s a temptation to get stuck in a rut. Particularly in the workaday world of email, when one tends to fire off emails in salvos, a meaningful closing can be a distraction. The body of the letter is short and declarative; sudden poetry right at the end can cause the reader to hiccup right as he’s mentally preparing for takeoff. Thus, writers have a tendency to find something serviceable and unassuming and stick with it. For me, it’s “Cheers”. It’s pleasant, slightly Anglic and faintly cavalier. I like it, and for most things I write, it does just fine. One-size-fits-all closings can miss an opportunity, though.

The closing -- commonly called the "valediction," as the counterpart to the salutation -- tells the reader in what spirit the missive was written. Particularly in letters, where the handwriting and the signature have distinct personality, the last word should, too. One wouldn’t write “Yours Truly,” at the end of a credit card offer, any more than a distant love would be content with sending his “Cordial regards,”. A good closing will echo and reinforce the theme of the letter, stated or not. It can add a bit of drama or a last punchline. My challenge to myself, and to you, if you wish to play along, is to not miss the opportunity. Take a moment, play around with words, and see if you can't surprise your reader with something pleasant, clever, and unexpected.

Next Sunday, Part II: 5 Types of Valedictions to Expand Your Repertories.

PNT is a full time law student, part time gentleman adventurer, and inveterate logophile who currently hangs his hat in Washington, D.C.


PostMuse said...

I have been signing off with "Postally Yours," on letters and postcards to friends. For work, I have been playing with valedictions, but haven't come up with anything clever. I work in public broadcasting and though something like "Yours in Giving" might work, but it sounds corny.

James said...

I typically use some translation of "Peace," when ending everyday letters/e-mails. But, I've taken up PNT's challenge and have begun experimenting with creative valedictions.


Madeline said...

I usually sign off with "Yours truly" at the end of my letters, but I have been expirimenting and came up with a few.

Madeline said...

Alright... how about:

Till the butter flies
Till Niagra Falls