Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Open and closed case

I have long been a studier of the opening and sign off's of letters. These days, I am equally as interested in the closing of email notes, which seem to many an acceptable location for informality.

In running a large staff, one of my biggest frustrations was the quality of professional communication. On the first day with a new group of reports, I spoke about expectations and drew a clear box in which succeed professionally in my area. I have never believed one should be forced to guess at how they might be certain to fail each day and believe one should always have a clear path to greatness when a superior is responsible for half the journey. Consequently I detailed, to shocked and momentarily annoyed groups, that all communication was to be addressed to someone and signed by someone. All letters and notes, including email, were to be respectfully opened and appropriately closed. How they chose to accomplish those requirements were left to their creative minds.

In formal documentation, I still open each letter, both professional and personal, with the word, "Dear..." though I chafe a bit in some instances, because it seems wholly inaccurate. Indeed, many addressees are not at all dear to me and I have often wished I had another acceptable go-to opening address. If I wrote back and forth with the addressee professionally each day, I would begin "Hello..." even if I had to type the words ten times each day; the chain of emails was both professional and corporate documentation and should be treated thoughtfully. I closed each note and typed my name each time, though sometimes just with my first name.

Others would write a sentence or two and hit "Send" with not one thought to respect or tone. They would not sign their name. They would use first and last initials, which, depending on the professional you talk to, will tell you it is as acceptable as signing with your first name. But not for me, it seems lazy and pompous. Not to mention, no short cuts would have been well-received by our international colleagues.

These are "intimate closings" for handwritten letters from Emily Post in 1922:

“Affectionately yours,” “Always affectionately,” “Affectionately,” “Devotedly,” “Lovingly,” “Your loving” are in increasing scale of intimacy.
“Lovingly” is much more intimate than “Affectionately” and so is “Devotedly.”
“Sincerely” in formal notes and “Affectionately” in intimate notes are the two adverbs most used in the present day, and between these two there is a blank; in English we have no expression to fit sentiment more friendly than the first nor one less intimate than the second

And professional closings:

The close of a business letter should be “Yours truly,” or “Yours very truly.” “Respectfully” is used only by a tradesman to a customer, an employee to an employer, or by an inferior, never by a person of equal position. No lady should ever sign a letter “respectfully,” not even were she writing to a queen. If an American lady should have occasion to write to a queen, she should conclude her letter “I have the honor to remain, Madam, your most obedient.” (For address and close of letters to persons of title, see table at the end of this chapter.)*

*The Hostess does not care for the use of the word "obedient" not only when addressing a monarch but in fact, anyone. Seems the word "respectful" might be a fine choice here and just about every imaginable scenario which an "American lady" might encounter. As a citizen of the United States, a democracy, why on earth would I indicate I was "obedient?" Certainly not, but that is up to you in your weekly updates to QE II et al.

How do you open and close?

Magnificent stationery is the work of Mrs. John L. Strong.

1 comment:

Teacats said...

Good Morning!

It is very difficult these days to know which phrase might suit the latest in communications! Emails and notes are -- by nature -- generally brief and to the point! We generally use the simple "Dear ...." -- and sign off with "Kindest Regards" and usually add a wish for a wonderful Spring (or other) Season.

Kindest regards and Best Wishes for a Wonderful Spring Day,

Jan at Rosemary Cottage