I received an email with an odd ending that made me laugh yesterday morning. The meaning of this unconventional salutation then lead me on a search for the proper closing for digital communications. I soon discover that many people have attempted to find a balance for the best closure that honors the past while adapting to the present.
Before the advent of email, SMS, instant messaging, etc., the structure of letters, or yellow sticky notes, were well understood. Rachel Sugar’s attempt at tackling this issue for Business Insider draws on other articles concerning digital communication etiquette.
Written communications have changed over time just like the meaning of the words used. Digital communications are really just another form of paper, if you will, that has the added danger of being quickly sent. Words written on a piece of paper along with taking the time to address an envelope and put it in the mail gave us time to consider the contents and how our words would be received. Many a letter has been written that was never sent.
The pen is mighty than the sword.
~ Edward Bulwer-Lytton ~
What once made sense for a letter written on paper no longer seems to apply as society’s form of communications have evolved. I believe that email and text messaging are the two most dangerous forms of written communications. In our haste to keep pace with a society that never sleeps, words and sentence structures, or lack there of, are used to convey a thought that can be misconstrued by the person(s) on the receiving end. Tone of voice and body language all play a vital role when one is listening to another person express their thoughts or ideas. These same clues of vocal communications can be heard in the words chosen in a hastily sent email or text.
One’s Philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes…and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.
~ Eleanor Roosevelt ~
The choice of words can convey honest thoughts and feelings but can also become passive-aggressive. The ending of the email that made me laugh yesterday morning was “Have a nice life”. For some, that may sound like a farewell to one who is venturing out on a new adventure. Knowing the author of the email, this closing comment was akin to giving the middle finger in salute. These four words told me that their struggle with unresolved anger over the decisions they have made, as well as what life brought their way, continues to fester. I for one am happy to accept being flipped off by words in an email as opposed to dealing with a bitter person face-to-face.
Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate, and to humble.
~ Yehuda Berg ~
I’ve concluded that there is no consensus on how we should begin and end an email. I usually consider my audience and structure the email accordingly. Then I choose my words carefully so I do not have any regrets.