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Best, Iris

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.

Best,
Iris

Published inRandom Thoughts

13 Comments

  1. Julian Julian

    Whenever someone adds you as a friend on Twitter, the automated response from Twitter signs off with “Best.”

  2. Mark Mark

    Maybe you ought to just remove the comma. :)

  3. Iris Iris

    Huh. I didn’t realize that, Julian. I guess I could take that one of two ways: Twitter came to the same conclusion as I did after much thought and deliberation, or I’m about as original as an automated response. :)

    And Mark, you’re silly.

  4. waltc waltc

    When you’ve gotten email from me, it’s probably ended with my own answer for this conundrum, particularly odd when I’m discussing employment termination (OK, when I send email to my wife, I sign with “Love,” but that’s it)… to wit,

    Cheers,
    walt c.

    (Of course Mark’s silly. That’s one of several reasons we like him.)

  5. Iris Iris

    But the real question is, how did you decide? Or did you make a conscious decision? Was it just what popped out at a formative moment in time (as mine ended up being, even though I thought I was deciding)?

    And you’re right, “cheers” on a termination does sound a little odd. But nothing else is going to sound any better, really.

  6. waltc waltc

    I believe it was a semi-conscious decision based on finding fault with alternatives. “Sincerely” sounded, well, insincere. “Best”–that isn’t something I’d use, for whatever reasons. “Yours”–also problematic. Longer salutations (“With utmost regards, yours, etc., etc.,”) just sounded awful.

    But I’m a Candide type, almost always upbeat, so “Cheers” felt about right.

    Still does, even under the circumstances noted.

  7. Iris Iris

    Now there’s a thought. I should start saying “yours, etc.,” like they used to in Victorian novels. (I can’t tell you how long I puzzled over the “etc.” part of that salutation when I was a little girl…)

  8. Mark Mark

    I change mine depending on the situation and general level of silliness. ;

    Cheers, Best, Sincerely, [sometimes just] Mark, perhaps a few others.

    But I really do like “Best Iris.” For you, of course. Wouldn’t work so well for me.

    And thanks for the compliment, Walt.

  9. Iris Iris

    See, and you’re probably keeping a few extra brain cells alive and firing by changing it up a little. I just let mine atrophy and die by sinking into a habit.

  10. Mark Mark

    Iris, you do know I’m not buying any of that self-denigration stuff?

    And you say I’m silly…

  11. Anna Anna

    I occasionally see some emails from a fellow who signs them with “peace & love,” which is in sharp contrast to the regularly cranky and unpleasant tone of the messages.

  12. Iris Iris

    Heh. When touchy-feely is only signature deep… Or maybe he just feels that by the time you get there you’ll need an extra measure of peace and love. :)

  13. Jenica Jenica

    For work mail, I often go with either “Thanks for your time”, “Please be in touch”, or, like you, “Best”.

    In personal mail that doesn’t need or warrant a “love”, I go with “Be well”, which is a sentiment that applies just about universally, I think. I rarely wish anyone ill, and if I did, I’m unlikely to be sending them email!

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