‘Yours Truly,’ the E-Variations

November 29, 2006


自從來到一個全英語生活環境

加上生活中大部分和他人的溝通都被email取代時

我開始發現國中英文課本中教我們在信的結尾...自己的署名前

寫上"Sincerely"這種千篇一律的sign-off用法已經完全不敷使用了...

常常需要因為寫信的對象...信件的內容...等而選擇不同的sign-offs

而這也常常是讓我在完成一封email之後花費最多時間考慮的部份

Yours Truly...Best...Love...Warmest regards...All the best...甚至是更為口語的Cheers...Chat soon...xoxo

有太多不同等級...不同親密程度的sign-offs可供選擇

而依據自己收信的經驗

我也清楚地知道不同的sign-offs會對我看完一封信後的心情造成極大影響

究竟這封信的目的是禮貌性的招呼...好友的日常問候...生意上往來對象的討價還價...還是老闆用來交代工作內容

都可以從sign-offs的選擇中看到蛛絲馬跡

這也會讓你不由自主地把sign-offs選擇當作是一件不可馬虎敷衍的重要決策



而以下這篇來自The New York Times的文章

就告訴我們有多少人也為選擇合適的sign-offs而感到苦惱...而他們的解決方法又是如何

對我而言...是一篇極端實用的文章...





‘Yours Truly,’ the E-Variations

By Lola Ogunnaike

Published : November 26, 2006 / The New York Times




Chad Troutwine, an entrepreneur in Malibu, Calif., was negotiating a commercial lease earlier this year for a building he owns in the Midwest. Though talks began well, they soon grew rocky. The telltale sign that things had truly devolved? The sign-offs on the e-mail exchanges with his prospective tenant.



“As negotiations started to break down, the sign-offs started to get decidedly shorter and cooler,” Mr. Troutwine recalled. “In the beginning it was like, ‘I look forward to speaking with you soon’ and ‘Warmest regards,’ and by the end it was just ‘Best.’ ” The deal was eventually completed, but Mr. Troutwine still felt as if he had been snubbed.



What’s in an e-mail sign-off? A lot, apparently. Those final few words above your name are where relationships and hierarchies are established, and where what is written in the body of the message can be clarified or undermined. In the days before electronic communication, the formalities of a letter, either business or personal, were taught to every third-grader; sign-offs — from “Sincerely” to “Yours truly” to “Love” — came to mind without much effort.



But e-mail is a casual medium, and its conventions are scarcely a decade old. They are still evolving, often awkwardly. It is common for business messages to appear entirely in lower case, and many rapid-fire correspondences evolve from formal to intimate in a few back-and-forths.



Although salutations that begin messages can be tricky — there is a world of difference, it seems, between a “Hi,” a “Hello” and a “Dear” — the sign-off is the place where many writers attempt to express themselves, even when expressing personality, as in business correspondence, is not always welcome.



In other words, it is a land mine. Etiquette and communications experts agree that it is becoming increasingly difficult to say goodbye.



“So many people are not clear communicators,” said Judith Kallos, creator of NetManners.com, a site dedicated to online etiquette, and author of “Because Netiquette Matters.” To be clear about what an e-mail message is trying to say, and about what is implied as well as what is stated, “the reader is left looking at everything from the greeting to the closing for clues,” she said.



Mr. Troutwine is not alone in thinking that an e-mail sender who writes “Best,” then a name, is offering something close to a brush-off. He said he chooses his own business sign-offs in a descending order of cordiality, from “Warmest regards” to “All the best” to a curt “Sincerely.”



When Kim Bondy, a former CNN executive, e-mailed a suitor after a dinner date, she used one of her preferred closings: “Chat soon.” It was her way of saying, “The date went well, let’s do it again,” she said.



She may have been the only one who thought that. The return message closed with the dreaded “Best.” It left her feeling as though she had misread the evening. “I felt like, ‘Oh, that’s kind of formal. I don’t think he liked me,’ ” she said, laughing. “A chill came with the ‘Best.’ ” They have not gone out since.



“Best” does have its fans, especially in the workplace, where it can be an all-purpose step up in warmth from messages that end with no sign-off at all, just the sender coolly appending his or her name.



“I use ‘Best’ for all of my professional e-mails,” said Kelly Brady, a perky publicist in New York. “It’s friendly, quick and to the point.”



Because people read so much into a sign-off, said Richard Kirshenbaum, chief creative officer of the advertising firm Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, he has thought deeply about his preferred closing to professional correspondence, “Warmly, RK.” He did not want something too emotional, like “Love,” or too formal, like “Sincerely.” “ ‘Warmly’ fell comfortably in between,” he said. “I want to convey a sense of warmth and passion, but also be appropriate.”



Which is just what a professional e-mail message should be, many executives say. Surprisingly, the sign-off “xoxo,” offering hugs and kisses, has become common even for those in decidedly nonamorous relationships. Ms. Bondy, who received from 300 to 500 e-mail messages a day while at CNN, was no fan of the “xoxo” farewell, especially when it came from a stranger pitching a story idea. “They’re trying to be warm and familiar when they shouldn’t be,” she said. “It’s inappropriate, and that’s probably the e-mail I’m not going to return.”



Robert Verdi, a fashion stylist and a host of “Surprise by Design,” a makeover reality show on the Discovery Channel, is a self-described “xoxo offender.” “Never in the first or second communication,” he clarified. But after a few friendly phone conversations or e-mail exchanges, he feels comfortable with the affectionate and casual sign-off, though he generally waits for the other party to make the first move. “The other person gives you the cues,” he said. “They send a ‘You’re the best! Love, Alison,’ and you send a ‘Hugs and kisses’ and all of a sudden you’re over that awkward hump and you’re best friends.”



Ms. Kallos said Mr. Verdi’s approach is the correct one. “In business you want to maintain the highest level of formality until the other person indicates otherwise,” she said. “Mirroring isn’t a bad thing to do. You’re letting the other side set the level of familiarity.”



It is also important that the closing is in keeping with the spirit of the message or it may create some sort of cognitive dissonance, said Mary Mitchell, the author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Etiquette.” “If you’re complaining to a company about a product and you sign off with ‘Warmly,’ you are miscommunicating,” she said.



Many e-mail users don’t bother with a sign-off, and Letitia Baldridge, the manners expert, finds that annoying. “It’s so abrupt,” she said, “and it’s very unfriendly. We need grace in our lives, and I’m not talking about heavenly grace. I’m talking about human grace. We should try and be warm and friendly.”



But it is important not to have too much fun with sign-offs, Ms. Baldridge cautioned, before recalling a closing from a man in his early 20s that read, “Don’t let the bedbugs bite.” It was “so pedestrian and boring and such an unattractive image to leave with people,” she said. “You want to leave an attractive warm image. Bedbugs are disgusting.”



Not to mention they prove a point Ms. Mitchell makes about e-mail correspondence. “While on the one hand e-mail encourages people to write,” she said, “on the other hand it discourages people to write thoughtfully.”











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1 意見

  1. Christine6:56 PM

    Thank you for sharing such a useful article!

    版主回覆:(12/15/2011 03:06:49 PM)


    I'm glad you find it helpful !

    R.

    ReplyDelete

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