As a child, I remember writing letters to grandma, having them carefully proof-read by my mom, and then copying them onto “real” paper before sending them off. Each letter was signed “Love, Iris” in that wobbly block writing of mine. In fact, that’s how I signed all of my correspondence. And it worked pretty well when I was writing to my family and friends, though not so well when I was writing to a new friend who had just fallen in love with me. (The feeling was not entirely reciprocated, so let’s just say that there was some confusion about my intentions. But it only took us about ten years to get that one cleared up…)
But then I graduated and got a job. I remember staring in some consternation at my very first out-going email as a professional librarian and wondering how in the world to sign off. “Love” just didn’t seem right when I was explaining off-campus database access to a faculty member. I’d seen “Cheers,” so I typed that one in, just to get the feel of it.
It didn’t feel like me. I wasn’t even quite sure what it meant. “Thank you” didn’t seem to work when I was providing a service rather than receiving it, and “Sincerely” was way to formal for me, though I did try it out, just to see. And closing with only my name sounded far too abrupt.
I wanted to sound professional yet also approachable, cheery, un-stuffy, and maybe even a little bit fun. That’s a lot to ask of a word or phrase followed by a comma.
After spending far too long trying various closing lines and becoming equally frustrated with the lack of options and my own obsession over getting this right, I finally typed “Best, Iris” and hit Send. “Best?” What’s that? Best what? Probably derived from something along the lines of “Best wishes to you and your family,” it’s definitely on the stuffy side. It tries to be hip by cutting off all the descriptive stuff and leaving the reader to fill in whatever he or she pleases. It’s even less descriptive than its slightly longer cousin, “All the Best,” which at least sounds more generous, though not any more enlightening.
But I was so relieved to have sent the stupid email without encumbering myself with either more or less affection than I meant, or sounding too earnest or too abrupt, that this abbreviated and incomprehensible closer has become my standard. I type it without even thinking any more, and it has graced the ends of dozens of emails a day for the last two years, varying only on those rare occasions when a more descriptive closer is absolutely necessary.
So if you get an email from me, scroll down to the signature. Your odds are pretty good that you’ll see this habitual signal of my capitulation to ethos over expression.