Friday, March 30, 2007

Metaphorically yours

I haven’t tended to give much thought to the words I use to close an e-mail message, I usually just put my name with no closing. But I have begun to feel that’s really a little too breezy, that a closing of some sort is better than just a name, and so I’ve been pondering and experimenting some with different ways to close my messages.

I’ve long since rejected “sincerely,” “very truly yours” and other standard closings as having been rendered meaningless by custom, like buzz words. Once I noticed someone using “best regards” or simply “regards,” and I kind of liked that for a while -- it was new to me, even though I now realize it’s an old standard too, every bit as much as “sincerely.” So now I’ve come to see “regards” as too much of a stock phrase and too impersonal. If I want to be impersonal, I can continue to just close with my name.

Some people close with “peace,” some “hugs,” the latter having become increasingly common so that I have gone from finding it rather sweet to more ordinary. To me, at least. I have a Navajo friend who closes with “Hozho,” a wonderful word full of meanings too complex to easily translate into English. But I wouldn’t feel at all comfortable co-opting an expression from another culture.

I think part of my problem with most closings is that they are one-size-fits-all, so no matter what it is, when people say it to everyone they correspond with, it becomes impersonal, generic. Wouldn’t it be much more personal if we actually selected a closing that was tailored to the particular person we were corresponding with and the nature of our relationship with that person?

Then I got an e-mail with a closing that just made my day, and now I’m really thinking about better ways to close my messages.

I had been corresponding with a local poet who had given me permission to use one of his poems in my quarterly journal, MOQ (see link at right). I had been very finicky about finding just the right poem, struggled to explain what I was looking for (our slogan is “exploring the bucolic city”), and so had gone back and forth with him over a period of several weeks. He was incredibly patient and supportive through it all, and in the end assured me that he was “thrilled” that we would be printing one of his poems (we ended up using two). This from a guy who has been published in national poetry magazines, much much more prestigious than our little local journal. And we can't afford to pay a cent for the works we use, only contributor copies.

After the issue was published, I was very late in mailing him his contributor copies. He sent me an e-mail and, rather than complain about it, offered to pick them up if that was more convenient, assured me that he had “no worries,” and closed with “yours, all yours,” followed by his name.

WELL! Isn’t that a lovely way to close an e-mail message?

Of course, it would not be even remotely appropriate in most correspondence (and I would hate to see it rendered meaningless by overuse), but in the context of the working relationship we had developed over the last several weeks, and the fact that he knows my husband more than me (and he is happily married himself), and that he is a poet, after all, it actually seemed appropriate while at the same time incredibly romantic. But in a chivalric kind of way. Like a pledge of fealty or something.

And now it’s really got me thinking about how that little closing, usually just one or two words, presents an opportunity to make someone smile.

So I’m giving myself the creative challenge to come up with adverbs to pair with “yours” in closing my messages. Too often, I can think of nothing that doesn’t seem contrived or inappropriate, so I still resort to the name-only closing. I’ve thought about compiling a list of really creative, fun closings, and then keeping it by the computer so I can look at it for ideas; but selecting from a list of closings runs the risk of still being impersonal. My motivation is to make my correspondence both more interesting and more genuinely personal, and I fear that selecting from a list can easily become as impersonal as using the same one over and over again.

So for the time being, I am

Searchingly yours,

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