Service of Signoffs

March 18th, 2013

Categories: Correspondence, Courtesy, Emails, Time

I don’t always sign every email with a “Regards,” “Best,” “XOX,” “Hugs” or anything else, especially after the first response followed by a rash of back and forth or if I’m dashing off a note on a subway platform using a handheld to update a friend or relative about a tidbit—but only someone from whom I hear almost daily. I’ll have to check; I think I add an xx before the jb or jm every first time.

So I disagree with Matthew J.X Madady who wrote on Slate.com: “You say ‘Best.’ I say No. It’s time to kill the email signoff.”

In the middle of his post he wrote: “After 10 or 15 more ‘Regards’ of varying magnitudes, I could take no more. I finally realized the ridiculousness of spending even one second thinking about the totally unnecessary words that we tack on to the end of emails. And I came to the following conclusion: It’s time to eliminate email signoffs completely. Henceforth, I do not want—nay, I will not accept—any manner of regards. Nor will I offer any. And I urge you to do the same.” [The bold is mine.]

I empathize with the discomfort involved with writing on a smartphone or tablet but there’s no excuse about typing another word or two on a computer using a standard keyboard. In any case, his point is not about comfort on a tiny or slippery keyboard but about the time it takes to think of the appropriate signoff. [This from a writer?]

If Madady wrote this post to up the readership of Slate.com he succeeded. I heard about his nixing “Fondly,” “Love,” “Sincerely” or “See you soon” on a radio program where the host, John Gambling, thought his assertion was atrocious.

Another hint that Madady was looking at shining the spotlight on himself and Slate rather than to eradicate signoffs is that it’s so easy to add a generic one to a signature template–he’d never have to write another one again. Time? Not much. If that signoff is too cute and cheery when acknowledging news of illness or death–delete it. Time? Not much.

In any case, I hope he’s not serious. Courtesy is worth the time and distinguishes considerate humans from boors. How much more of a hatchet to civility will we tolerate and accept?

 

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7 Responses to “Service of Signoffs”

  1. Donna Boyle Schwartz Said:

    Stealing a turn of phrase from the late Jackie Kennedy: “I want minimum information given with maximum politeness.”

    There is no excuse not to be polite to someone, especially in an email exchange where so much of the non-verbal (and even verbal!) communication element is missing. Civilized society needs all the help it can get!

  2. Jeremiah Said:

    To paraphrase, “How far have the civilized fallen?”

    There is ample evidence that the founding fathers, to mention only one subset of heroic ideals, took their letter writing seriously. They knew, and their wives also, that they were writing for posterity. They chose their words with care because they had meaning, and the tone of the way they wrote was almost as significant as what their words meant. Try to find a single letter any of them wrote, which has no gracious or courteous words in its salutations. If there is one, it was written that way to anger or taunt, not because they were lazy correspondents.

    Most email writing already sounds like the cackle of a horde of hungry field mice, which has just been let loose in a Wisconsin cheesery. (There’s nothing quite like it. French, even Italian, mice are far quieter, and oh so much more elegant!)

    What does Mr. Madady wish to do? Diminish us to the level of field mice?

    No thank you.

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Donna,

    Hail to the then Mrs. Kennedy in this regard.

    To start, most of us are not such great writers that readers can clearly gauge our voice’s tone which can get an email author in trouble. Add speed of immediate response–another potential red flag. Remove an appropriate signoff or any other signs of care and there’s little place for consideration and civility.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Jeremiah,

    Squeak! What an image.

    The style of writing was a bit on the flowery side and people who had hot and cold running help at home and at work took more time to write as life was slower and pride in writing was a priority.

    It hasn’t been for a long time. While many contemporary artists thrive, many writers starve. Corporations aren’t embarrassed to send out the most incredible, undecipherable blog and marketing copy filled with typos as though written by someone for whom English was a third language because most don’t know the difference and many think that they are saving money by asking someone’s high school kid to do what before was done by a skilled writer.

    Elegance is out. So is clarity. Sigh.

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    I’m happy either way. Much depends upon the style of the writer. I have dropped most endings for brevity. I also see it as being informal rather than rude.

  6. Hank Goldman Said:

    Ouch! Hot topic!

    Sign-offs! I’m staying Away— Sorry!!
    Love,
    Yours,
    xoxoxoxoxxo,
    as ever,

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    Which brings up a whole new topic: When is informality appropriate? Grist for a future post perhaps.

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