August 28, 2005

Sign In, Sign On, Sign Out

I have correspondence now.

IMMEDIATE DIGRESSION: This blog is supposed to be about "how do you and how should I sign off on letters" and you know what? I need to take a poll pretty much, because it seems to me there is not a very good way to close a letter. SO, I am going to get there. Eventually. But I typed, "I have correspondence now" and my brain started yammering about GODS HAS BEEN OUT FOR SEVERAL MONTHS AND THE NEW HAS COME OFF AND IS MY LIFE DIFFERENT? Subquestions: IF NO, WHY NOT and IF YES, HOW, and a partial answer to that question is in the spawning thought, aka: I have correspondence now.

I have not had CORRESPONDENCE, really, since I got to the 337th of the 350 thank you notes* I owed the Universe after my LARGE! TRADITIONAL! SOUTHERN! WEDDING!, and by this I mean, we did it RIGHT with the registering at Dillard's, and a shrimp tree at the reception, and the 5 foot by 4 foot bridal portrait in a HUGE gilded frame that still hangs all oil-paint-sheened and proper in my mother's formal living room, and I got a PAPER TROUSSEAU okay?

Half of you don't even know what a paper trousseau is, and in a way, I envy you this, because I was the victim of a large and formal southern wedding,** which means I have several complete sets of china in various patterns and formal-ness levels, and so the Paper Trousseau was put to immediate post-wedding use...and use and use and use and use and use, thank you note after thank you note on the heavy, creamy, embossed and monogrammed paper, until the day came when I threw my pen across the room and hurled myself weeping onto the carpet where I foamed and writhed like worm dropped onto a hot griddle.

Scott took my chair and started to write the last notes for me, but I howled, NO NO THE BRIDE HAS TO DO IT!! STOP! STOP! and banged my head on the floor, and then he leaned down and whispered six beautiful words to me. At the time I felt they must be the most beautiful words in the English language. I mean, they weren't anything special, really, but to my bleeding ears they were a love song, a poem, a freakin' a SHAKESPEARE sonnet, and they cemented my permanent gratitude and guaranteed my affections would linger for a thousand years, should we live so long: "Baby," he said to me, "I can forge your signature."

As we loaded the last of the thank you notes into the mailbox together, I clutched his arm and said, "WE CAN NEVER GET DIVORCED. EVER. Because eventually, I would get remarried, and some cruel vartlet would feel the need to present me and my new husband with some sort of PLATE, and as GOD IS MY WITNESS, I can never write a thank you note for a plate again. I will DIE. I will literally have a brain spasm and drop lifeless to the floor. Immediately. There are only so many ways one can enthusiastically and with different grammar and reasoning express one's delight over a salad, dinner, or dessert plate, and Baby, I have been down every possible avenue of plate-delight-expressing. I can be delighted by plates nevermore. SO. No divorce, and PS, I get to die first."*

Of course that's a facile answer, and I think I am going to try to answer this question MORE BETTER over the next week (unless, of course, something shiny runs by. Something wearing pink socks, maybe??? Heh.) But no, it's worth blogging about I think especially with this DREAM trip coming up and because it is becoming a(n) FAQ. SO I WILL. But today I am concerned about letter closers because one thing that IS different is I have so much more GENUINE correspondence, and by that I mean, things that need to be written on pretty paper with a black pen and sealed and stamped and sent via boats and ponies to

1) Weird Luddite Friends who refuse to acknowledge THERE IS AN INTERNET NOW. Or
2) Folks in my business who have been so beautiful and kind to me that e-mail won't do. Or
3) People who enjoyed the book and were thoughtful enough to tell me so in writing on stationary. Or
4) Warner or Conference/Event people who need a real actual signature on a paper contract. Or
5) Folks who are also being mailed an object that cannot be sent electronically, like a signed copy of gods for a charity auction.

And I never know how to sign off on these things. Here are the choices so far:

ALL BEST --- In New York, they almost all use ALL BEST, or BEST, or some variation thereof. It's like a secret New York insider sign off. I've seen it on letters from a HORDE of established authors and agents and editors (I get letters from them asking for blurbs) and publicists. I picked it up and used it for a bit, and still do every now and again because...okay this is SO dorky. But. It makes me feel cool. Cool like Fonzi, you know, like I am In Crowdy and can take meetings in the bathroom. But....It's like trying on Prada: Sexy as all get out, but in a playing-dress-up way. Not my real life. Not my real verbiage. I can't take myself seriously when I use it because I KNOW I am just frontin' like a playa, which is another thing I can't say and take myself seriously.

WARMLY --- This is new---seems to be the new trendy way for WOMEN to sign off. I am seeing this a LOT and it seems friendly and personal, which I like, but but somehow the word "Warmly" has bad connotations for me. It makes me think of "MOISTLY" and "DAMPLY" and the hot, pale, sweat-dewed palms of the kind of puffy-handed man that ALWAYS puts a hand on the small of your back as he ushers you into a room, and you KNOW later you will find a damply creased print of his covert pawings on the silk. YARG! Yes. It is a personal problem. So, nice as "warmly" is, it isn't for me.

SINCERELY --- See also Cordially, Regards, and Best Regards. The old standby business closers. Too stiff and formal.

CHEERS --- Cheerful, also friendly, but sounds like I would rather be drinking. Which is probably be true, but do I have to let everyone KNOW that? Also it may be too INFORMAL and chatty and perky and... NOT BRIGHT? Like I bet if DOGS wrote letters they would sign them "CHEERS!" right before becoming so excited about the WALK! to the MAILBOX! that they pee all over the carpet.

YOURS --- I like yours, but only if I feel a personal connection with the person. It's too INFORMAL for regular use.

So far Cheers is winning....What do you use? What am I MISSING? Do you even NOTICE closers? Obviously, I do....Oh well. Suggestions appreciated.

* If you attended my LARGE! TRADITIONAL! SOUTHERN! WEDDING! and gave me, God help you, a plate, let me just reiterate that in spite of the hyperbolic plate vitriol I spewed above, I DID appreciate your thoughtfulness, and if I did not write your thank you note FIRST, then I heartily apologize for whatever addled mush I spewed at you about it on my paper trousseau. Sample:

Dear Friend and/or Relation!

Scott and I are ecstatic with the crisp elegance of the Lennox McKinley Salad Plate you so thoughtfully bestowed upon our plate-less home! We like to sit around and take turns licking it! Sometimes, I will hide it behind my back and suddenly spring it on him, just WHIP IT OUT, you know, and he will fall to his knees, blinded by its....did I say crisp elegance already?? ANYWAY! THANK YOU! You have a beautiful white soul!

Love! (Or Yours Or perhaps Cordially!)
Joshilyn and Scott!

It was only that I wanted you to have an INDIVIDUAL, SPECIAL NOTE ALL YOUR OWN, a note in which I did not say to you something I had already said to someone else. I hate form letters, even hand written ones. And

** I know I said "victim of a large traditional southern wedding" but that was, for the record, a joke. I loved my wedding. I, in fact, ADORED my wedding and would do it again exactly the same, yes, even the pink bridesmaids dresses, even the circlet of roses headpiece, yea down unto the very last shrimp on the shrimp tree, and you know what? I STILL FREAKING LOVE THOSE MCKINLEY PLATES! AND THEY ARE CRISPLY ELEGANT. So. There.

Posted by joshilyn at August 28, 2005 4:58 PM
Comments

Just write the note, find a couple of different ways to spell out "thank you", sign your name, and stick it in the mail already. I know you are a, um, stickler, for details, but obsessing over a closing is a bit too much. All people will be interested in is the stuff you write in the middle and if you truly signed your name instead of using a rubber stamp. If I received something in the mail from you, I would be too awestuck and grateful to be able to find it anything less than wonderful.

Posted by: Elizabeth at August 28, 2005 5:13 PM

How funny you should bring this up. A friend and I recently hashed it over and decided there is no good way to sign off, so we are going to use:

....and I hope to see you soon.
Okay,
Jill

Since many sign-off options are either too meaningful or not meaningful enough, we think an entirely meaningLESS word is the ticket. You could even write: Heavens, Joshilyn or Yep, Joshilyn. Think of the possibilities... :)

Posted by: Jilly at August 28, 2005 5:43 PM

I'm sorry, did you tell Joss to stop obsessing? She would cease to be! And then I would CRY! So no, please don't stop obsessing, beautiful tulip.

I do tend to favor Regards for business stuff, but I don't know, perhaps this calls for a SPECIAL SOUTHERN SIGN-OFF or something.

Y'all come back now,
Joshilyn

or

Well kiss my grits (warmly),
Joshilyn

or

You're pretty,
Joshilyn

or

Remind me to tell you about the pink socks next time,
Joshilyn

You could INVENT your own closing and watch it catch on!

Posted by: Mir at August 28, 2005 5:56 PM

How about:

Living in a pineapple under the sea,
Joshilyn

Please don't hate me. ;)

Posted by: Amy at August 28, 2005 6:05 PM

You had me at "shrimp tree."

I vote for Mir's "you're pretty" signoff. Sometimes I end things with "Aloha," like the first time I sent a postcard to my future Intrepid Spouse, before I really knew him. WAY too goofy, even in that instance.

Meanwhile:

Q. Why do WASPs hate orgies?
A. All those thank-you notes...

Posted by: Cornelia Read at August 28, 2005 6:35 PM

There you go, you answered your own question:

Crisply Elegant,
Joshlyn


How's that?

Hather

Posted by: Heather McCutcheon at August 28, 2005 7:35 PM

Really? Like a worm dropped on a hot griddle? Ew! *shudders* Well, at least he didn't have to sign off. *heh* I have the same problem. Sign offs, that is. For friends, usually, it's "Later" or "Yak atcha later" but anyone less casual presents a problem. I generally use "Sincerely", even though it sounds too formal. This is clearly a nation-wide problem and could probably be well served by some sort of lavishly funded government study, don'tcha reckon? By the way, I've been reading your blog long enough now that I recognized Mir before I even saw her name scroll up. Scary, huh?
Yak sincerely atcha later.

Posted by: David at August 28, 2005 7:56 PM

I have a friend who signs his emails to me:

Always,
His Name

It confused me at first, but the more I think about it the better I like it.

If I sent you a note signed:

Always,
Corrie

it would be TRUE TRUE TRUE - after all, I will always be Corrie.

You could Always (be) Joshilyn

Posted by: Corrie at August 28, 2005 8:17 PM

well, most of my correspondence has to do with the technical support help desk where I work so I use a lot of "hope this helps!" and "let me know how it goes" and just plain old "thanks". I sign off to close friends with corney baloney like "l8r t8r" and "c-ya". Formal writing? I do not do much of that - I'm leaning towards Corries (Corrie's? Corries'?ACK WHERE does the apostrophe go?) closing of "Always". That's just sincere enough, not too formal, yet no so informal to make the reader wonder about your sanity.

Posted by: Karry at August 28, 2005 10:30 PM

I say go for honesty. Like:

With the exact amount of (dry) warmth and (sober) good cheer appropriate to our relationship,
Joshilyn

Posted by: DebR at August 28, 2005 11:57 PM

Oh DebR, If that sign off doesn't just SCREAM crisp elegance, I'll eat a griddle worm. ;P

Posted by: David at August 29, 2005 8:23 AM

"Cordially," works for me & William F. Buckley.

Posted by: Jeff at August 29, 2005 8:38 AM

A sign off that can only sound like Joshilyn would work. I vote for "You're Pretty" or "Beautiful Tulip".

Posted by: Elizabeth at August 29, 2005 9:29 AM

How about:

Obsessively,

Joshilyn

Or the simpler version:

Ack!,

Joshilyn

Posted by: Laura at August 29, 2005 11:08 AM

Well there were so many good suggestions although three stand out among the rest...
Crispy Elegant
Obsessively yours,
and strangly I liked Always
which made me think of Ever. But then I would write something to my sister in law, and she ultimately would sig me back

What - Ev-errr,
Denisious

So maybe I shall scratch that one. Just signing my name would be too coldly dry, so I usually add sincerely at work, but I might change that to Ever or Always now. If you're in radio I apologize in advance. Oh wait, that is it! On air I sign off
Ciao Bona Fortuna

May I add mine, and I would think it captures you beautifully -

Joyously,
Joss

Posted by: Cele at August 29, 2005 11:27 AM

"Fondly" works for most of my letters. As in fond of you, fond of your letter of worship you sent in honor of my book, or of those little cookies you make each time I see you. "Hope to see you soon" and "don't be a stragner" also work. Almost all my work emails end in "thank you" because I'm telling people what to do (ick). Just try to work in the sentiment of the letter at the end and use that.
Hope this helps-
Chris
(see how easy it is:)
Am I being ot literal?

Posted by: Chris at August 29, 2005 12:22 PM

Perhaps just "Tullips" -- a flowery, Joshilynesque alternative to "Cheers"? *sniff, sniff* Do I smell a sign-off contest in the wind? A sign-off contest with, say, an autographed copy of Between, Georgia up for grabs? *looks expectantly in Constant Newt's direction for some helpful nudgings* ;-)

Posted by: David at August 29, 2005 1:16 PM

I don't think "Sincerely" is necessarily too formal or starchy. If you really imagine it as being sincere and not cursory (like "How are you today" without listening to the answer). Its like saying "everything I said above was said with deep truth and meaning and eye connection". If you imagine it that way, then it is true.

Also, I am recovering from a guilt complex I grew after HATING to see people coming toward me with wedding and/or baby gifts. ANOTHER GIFT? NO! But you are so lucky to have family and friends that love you! NO MORE NOTES! NO MORE! But they went to the trouble of choosing, buying and wrapping a lovely token for you! BUT MY HAND HURTS AND THE WORDS ARE GONE! It was an ugly time.

Posted by: Em at August 29, 2005 2:37 PM

I actually used "You're Pretty" in couple of my recent wedding thank you notes!

At work, I always used "Cordially" because I think it is far less stuffy than "Sincerely". I always felt like it was formal, but not too formal, with the slightest touch of southern charm.

Posted by: bonnie at August 29, 2005 2:39 PM

I just read over the comments and my two faves, for real (I have other faves that probably aren't realistic) are Fondly, and Always. Both very nice.

For the record, I generally sign off with a wordless Prince-esque squiggly...

~Em

Posted by: Em at August 29, 2005 2:42 PM

Sometimes I sign off "Take Care,". Though that does have a sort of...OMINOUS sound to it, now that I think of it. Like there's some impending disaster that I'm trying to warn them about, only I can't come out and say it because the bad guys are looking over my shoulder as I write.

Posted by: elswhere at August 29, 2005 4:48 PM

"Fondly" always gets the job done.

Although "you're pretty" is lovely, too.

My father-in-law is an ex-Manhattan acquisitions editor and always uses "Best." In return, I send him emails that are signed,

Dude,
Georgia

Posted by: Georgia at August 29, 2005 5:37 PM

I had not realized that "Best" (which I always use as the signoff for e-mails, unless it's a friend, in which case they get an "xox") marked me as a NY hipster! I always use "Sincerely" for business letters, or for more formal e-mails, but of course it's quite unsatisfactory. I have noticed an appealing (minor) trend, though--several people I know seem to sign their e-mails with things like

Your most obedient and humble servant

or, more dashingly,

Yr most obdt hmble svt

This was a good sign-off in its day, as it could be tailored for the purpose:

A money-grubbing letter

Yr most obdt and impoverished svt

A job-hunting letter

Yr extremely grateful and most obsequiously grovelling svt

etc. etc.

Posted by: Jenny D at August 29, 2005 6:55 PM

LOL! Funny comments! I liked them all, but thought that Laura's was great:

Ack!
Joshilyn


Sonya

Posted by: Sonya at August 29, 2005 9:57 PM

I'm not sure if "Best" is just a New York thing or a hip-people-in-the-publishing-world thing, because I get it from my editors who are in Toronto. An email the other day was signed "Best Alison" and you know, while I like Copyeditor Alison, I have a lot of Alisons in my life and I'm not sure I'm ready to award her the title of Best Alison, without any punctuation or anything.

I sign everything "Thanks, Trudy." I figure any correspondence I'm involved in will certainly include me being thankful for something, if only for the fact that someone cared enough to notice my existence. But admittedly, these are emails -- I too have not had much use for the mail since the days of the thank-you notes (I actually found the ones for baby gifts more oppressive than the wedding ones. In the case of our first child we spent so much time working up a cutesy customized thank-you note with pictures of the baby on it, that one of our gift-givers actually DIED between the time she sent the gift and the time we sent the thank-you note. I mean, she was old and all, but still, I felt crappy. That'll larn ya.)

Posted by: Trudy at August 30, 2005 6:35 AM