Author, advertising and
publishing consultant, former
editor of Chicago and other
magazines, former creative
director of Campbell-Ewald and
other advertising agencies. For
more information, click here. Or
see Who's Who in America or
Consulting editor, historian, poet
and author of several books. For
more information, click here or
BLOGS and GLOBS: I have
been writing a blog since 1966,
only I didn't know it. In those
days, it came out in the form of a
newsletter on paper. Remember
paper? It never got lost in
cyberspace, although if it got wet
enough blog turned into glob. I
called it The Uncommentator,
and tried to make it amusing. To
read some of my favorites, see
Recent Books by the Frisbies.
A client once asked me how I thought he should sign his sales letters. "Sincerely yours" seemed too routine, too boring. When great poets like Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats wrote to each other, one might have expected some imaginative and powerful variations in the closings. Not so. Shelley was "yours sincerely" and Keats was "most sincerely yours."
Forced to think about it, I wondered why a business letter should end with an adverb, purportedly--but not really--describing the mental and emotional state of the writer at the moment of signing.
The closing is a sort of cultural appendix, a useless vestige of a leisurely past when people didn't mind writing extra words with goose quills no matter how long it took. Without television they didn't have much else to do. They couldn't spend all their time ln the naughty intrigues that inspired Gothic novels.
George Washington, writing an angry letter to an officer who had proposed making him king of the nation emerging in America used words like "abhorrence" and "reprehend" The gist was that the offending colonel should stuff a cannonball in his big mouth. The General then signed off, "with esteem I am, Sir. Yr most obed Ser, G. Washington."
Aaron Burr, raging and challenging Alexander Hamilton to the duel in which he killed Hamilton closed, "I have the honor to be Yours respt." Perhaps the closing word should be "insincerely."
Not everyone of that era followed the convention. Thomas Jefferson could end a letter simply, "adieu." Benjamin Franklin also used "adieu" along with "your affectionate friend" or, non-commitally, "yours." People still use plain "yours" and "as ever" to end a letter without hinting at any troublesome sentiment.
There might be a point to a closing if every letter writer had to state his or her true feelings. "Dear Friend: You have won one of the following three prizes...Greedily yours, Henry Huckster." "Dear Voter: Unless you send money now, the other party will raise taxes, invade Liechtenstein and draft your dog...Deviously yours, Beryl Porkinson."
Trying to be accurate might lead to closings that sound like the instructions on music. Today are you writing "brilliantly" or "moderately brilliantly" or "brilliantissimo"? "Distractedly" or "moderately stressfully" or "unhinged totally?"
Even some attitudes generally viewed as constructive could cause trouble. Being of a sanguine disposition, I often could sign a letter "cheerfully" without stretching the truth. But I well recall that when there were sleep-deprived teenagers living at home my tendency to make cheerful remarks at breakfast counted against me as a significant defect of character.
How do I really feel today? None of your business.