It may seem strange to discuss goodbyes at the very beginning of this wonderful magazine, however I feel it my duty as a lover and champion of all things nice to highlight the tragic state of what can often, and with very little effort, be one of the most endearing parts of a letter* – its tail.
Case in point: I received a fairly formal letter a couple of months ago, from a stranger, with an unexpectedly amusing sign-off that read, “Yours so very, very insincerely, Michelle.” Just a few words, nothing mind-blowing, yet they sat there, sparkling, somehow managing to lift something I would otherwise have forgotten about, and, if only for a few moments, brought a smile to my sad old face long enough for me to forget my deadline. Alas, the small trace of residual warmth generated by that rare, entertaining sign-off was soon sucked from my face when just a few hours later, I received an email that ended with the completely mundane, “KR.” “KR,” for the uninitiated, stands for “Kind Regards,” already one of the laziest, most uninspiring parting waves ever known to letter-writing; so uninspiring, in fact, that some lazy, uninspired people partially sweep its body under the carpet by initialising it.
Unfortunately, the second example is far more common, and as we humans pretend to become busier, valediction becomes shorter and more sterile. Soon we’ll be ending letters and emails with a QR code.
So, consider this an appeal on behalf of the readers of letters. Please, please, please can we ditch the likes of “Kind Regards” and “Yours Sincerely,” and instead invest a few minutes when closing letters and emails. I’m not asking for goodbyes as grand and elaborate as Scottish poet Tobias Smollet, who, in 1759, finished a letter with a longer sign-off than most of my emails: “It would be superfluous to say more on the subject, which I leave to your own consideration; but I cannot let slip this opportunity of declaring that I am, with the most inviolable esteem and attachment, dear Sir, your affectionate, obliged, humble servant, T. Smollet.” No, that would clearly be ridiculous. What we can do though is take a leaf from the book of the late jazz legend Louis Armstrong, a prolific and charming correspondent who ended his numerous letters with such gems as, “Am Trumpetly Yours,” “Am Ricely & Chickenly Yours,” “Yours Soul Foodly,” and, “Am Red Beans and Ricely Yours” – all succinct closing lines which wink, wave, and never fail to warm the heart.
- I realise, with sadness, that times are changing. Therefore this appeal also applies to emails. Tweets, not so.