On Valedictions

Valedictions are those little things that people put at the end of messages they’ve written, such as a letter (do these ever get written anymore?) or an email.

I’m seized with a bizarre mixture of dread and apprehension every time I get to the valediction, often switching to something else entirely (such as writing this) so as to avoid that crucial moment when I have to decide on which particular valediction to use in this instance. This reveals both my neurosis and the complicated, norm-less cultural milieu in which we live.

We’re confused and not sure if we’re sincere about much of anything these days, so sincerely just won’t do in most instances. And saying yours truly is fraught with the distinct likelihood of not wanting to offer myself up to this person, so traditional valedictions must give way, in all sincerety.

We are therefore left in a precarious postmodern space of make-it-up-as-you-go. Here is a chance to tell everyone who I am! Maybe I’ll even convince myself. Christians such as myself often succumb to the temptation to insert a benediction of sorts, using valedictions such as blessings, peace, peace be on you, etc. The particularly ambitious may also cite a verse (either as a reference or in full text) at this point, to prove their spiritual mettle. My sarcastic tone obviously reveals my shallow spirituality on this point, as I can’t quite believe that I am doing any of these sincerely.

Then we work our way into that zone of banality known as regards (and its kissing-cousins best regards and kind regards). These are the realm of the politically correct, who want to be cordial without offering any real inkling of any position in this whole sordid affair. They want to be neither stodgy traditionalists or religious-types in their valediction, leaving them with this limp-wristed handshake of a valediction to close their correspondence.

I can see only two solutions to this problem, one of which I need to quickly decide upon, lest I succumb to ever having to write anything like this again in a moment of valedictory angst. One solution is to embrace a summary rejection of the valediction altogether, simply placing your name (possibly preceded by a dash) after the last paragraph. The elegant brevity of this solution has much to recommend it, but it also can be read as somewhat cold and impersonal.

A second solution is to simply standardize myself upon a single valediction that will henceforth be used in all of my correspondence, removing the anxiety of having to make a decision every single time. The trouble here is that the aforementioned anxiety is collected and intensified into this single decision. I’ll save you, dear reader, a trip through my neurosis and say that using shalom as my valediction is probably the most attractive possibility, although it does make me seem like I’m trying too hard. But I do love the simple, hopeful invocation in that one little word, the calling-forth of a peace that is so much more than the absence of war; the promise of a world where valleys are lifted and mountains made low, where there is a state of general flourishing for all.

For now, at least, I leave you with:


24 responses to “On Valedictions”

  1. Nice… I like it… actually I think its amazing and here is why:
    -I can completely relate-

    well aside from the fact that it is well written concicely poinient, and effectively pieced…

    however I don’t have the theological understanding of religious word based summary idealizmo statements to have as effectively discovered one such valediction for my self.

    perhaps you could add to our word and phrase generating e-gluttony and start up a web site dedicated to providing powerful, dynamical valedictions?

    So on the other side of things my awkward veledictizmorationalisms will have to continue on.

    Submit your valedictionorized statement here:


  2. Ry: Thanks for the kind words. Publishing would definitely be interesting, but I wouldn’t have to foggiest idea of what kind of publication would take it. Ideas?

    Don: haha, a generator would be the perfect ironic compliment to this!

  3. Or write those valedictions in other languages. You’ve just suggested “shalom” (hebrew). So, why don’t you try with german, spanish, french, italian, cherokee, japanese, etc.

  4. mountainguy: Taking your suggestion a step further, we could attain ultimate irony by using standard valedictions in other languages. Just to show how hip, ironic and clever we are.

  5. Sorry, I have to agree with mountainguy(?): the ethnic vote is not a valid escape from your dilemma, but a cultural obfuscation with the added advantage (as you point out out) of appearing more clever. The best part about foreign valedictions is that they give emails that are inherently banal a last moment amnesia inducing sugestion that the TPS report you just sent might actually be something more romantic, like a postcard from the south of France.

    Or, you could avoid dwelling on it and just sign the damn thing.


  6. I also think it’s cute to sign off with bunny rabbits:

    (O.o )
    ( > < ) mattfrise.

  7. I found this post because I got to the end of a letter I was writing and had to switch to something else entirely (well, not entirely).

    I have thought many of your thoughts on this subject, Matt, but have never expressed them all in one place, nor so elegantly. Thank you.

    I have a Word doc on my desktop titled Valedictions where I cut-and-paste any good ones that come through my email. It’s filled mostly with ones from a Buddhist friend, who can wear “With a bow and a smile” much better than I can.

    Good luck in all your valedictory pursuits — Suzanne

  8. I google-searched “email valediction” because I also wanted to come up with something good. So finding your thoughts on the issue was a nice treat. What a good post. Are you still using shalom?

  9. @Mindy Thanks for the kind words. This post has proven to get quite a few hits from people searching for similar terms to what you used, so it’s good to know that we’re not alone in our struggles!

    As for your question, I tried using “shalom” for some time, but I felt too self-conscious about it in the end. I’ve settled on just leaving my name, sans-valediction at the end of most emails.

  10. Thanks for posting this — I can truly relate!

    I like to sign “In Christ” when writing to brothers or sisters in the faith, but I feel as though that’s too pushy for a nonbeliever (or if I don’t know). In those cases, I usually go for a simple “Sincerely” or “Best Regards” (though I never thought of that as being PC…)

    Perhaps we could all be shaken out of our valediction-phobia by a return to the old English traditions, such as this one which I found on Wikipedia:

    “I beg to remain, Sir, your most humble and obedient servant,”

    Wonder how our business colleagues would take that =).

  11. Came across this when looking up valedictions. Totally hilarious and exactly how I feel! Thanks for making me not so odd!

  12. I enjoyed reading that very much, as I was just to the end of a business letter and didn’t know what would be appropriate to sign. I’m always more interested in the real value of something rather than what is commonly used. I detest the staleness of common valedictions and remember the people who use unique ones for a long time.

    I wanted to see more examples of what people were using themselves.

    oh well.

    Farewell friends,

  13. I too reach to other languages, and it’s hard to beat the origin of ‘vale-diction’ itself, Latin. Vale [pronounced wah-lay] is a command to be strong or well (valete when addressing a plural audience), and is the counterpart of the be-healthy salutation salve/salvete (seeing a pattern in our vocabulary?).

  14. The usage of conventional valedictions reveals nothing except the knowledge of conventions. If it is your intent to appear conventional in a given context, regards. An informal valediction does reveal something of ourselves, and I suppose that it is this revealing of ourselves that often makes it awkward. In an age of withering linguistic formalism, we have a freedom of expression that is also a burden of responsibility.

    May your choices be prudent,

  15. If you want to break from the valedictory norm, how about solidifying your departure by leaving behind words and instead using–wait for it–numbers?

    Seventy three is morse code, frequently used by radio operators, to mean “best regards.”

    There’s an idea, huh?

    Mr. Lawrence

  16. Ah, Johnny-Come-Lately to the party again, lol — I just found this and wanted to thank you for proving that my valediction angst is not something I suffer from alone. I was just responding to a colleague and tried to Google something less hackneyed than “sincerely” (yuck), read all the comments, laughed heartily, and closed with a simple “Respectfully, Joyce”
    (I do respect her opinions and we were mildly mid-debate on our current project, lol)

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