Overthinking Letter Closings

I have a very distinct memory of being taught in grade school that one ought to properly close a letter with the claim, “sincerely.”

I went with the term for awhile but ultimate dropped it because every time I finished a letter I thought to myself, “Really? Did I really mean everything sincerely?”

For sixth grade that felt like a high bar.

Of course, checking your sincerity is ultimately for the best – if you are not sincere about the contents of your letter, that ought to call in to question your whole purpose in writing it.

But, having something of a penchant for hyperbole, I also found myself overly concerned with little details. If I sincerely wrote “I will always remember…” then decades later suffered from dementia, would that negate the whole sincerity of the letter I had innocently penned as a child?

I found this very concerning.

So perhaps you can understand why I stopped using the term. My intentions were sincere, but, I suppose, I didn’t feel comfortable holding myself to that sincerity indefinitely.

Years later, I noticed I had slipped into a seemingly casual replacement: thanks.

Particularly in the workplace this expression seemed apt. I was often asking people to do things and I was, generally speaking, sincerely thankful for their attention to the matter. And I am, have no doubt, all in favor of thanking people.

But this closing, too, came to wear on me.

I started signing off with “thanks” on most correspondence. Not only when I had something to be thankful for, but when those I was writing to probably ought to be thanking me, or when thanks, frankly, had nothing to do with it.

Not only did this make the “thanks,” seem shallow, the habit began to strike me as one of those things that would today make some click-bait list of things women ought to stop doing in the work place.

That is to say, I said thanks as a way of diminishing myself.

While women, of course, can do whatever they damn well please in the workplace and beyond, I did find myself drifting from thanks as my go-to sign-off. Thanks should be reserved, I decided, for times when I am particularly thankful for something.

For the last many years, I have settled on “best,” as my general sign-off. I like that it is positive, yet appropriately vague.

When I am feeling particularly meaningful, I upgrade this to, “all the best.

I’m not really sure what it means to wish someone all the best, but I imagine sending someone all the best things in existence. Rainbows and puppy dogs, perhaps. Whatever you’re into.

I can’t commit to my sincerity, and I’m skeptical of my thankfulness, but I feel confident that whoever you are I wish you the best – however you define that for yourself.


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