By Matt Gordon
Emails have become mostly informal in tone. The ones I get—for work or otherwise—typically begin with “Hey” or “Hi.” Or sometimes they just begin. Then the message is predictable: a request for some favor, a friendly reminder about something, a well wish, a threat about paying a debt owed which contains phrases like “blood money” and “repercussions” and “I know where you live you son of a . . .” You know, just the run-of-the-mill stuff written in common, everyday language. Accessible like a river—no high-falutin membership needed, anyone can just walk right in and be swimming.
And then comes the sign-off, where the waters freeze over. Suddenly we turn from regular human beings interacting as humans do, into some strange alien life form trying his tentacles at goodbye with a human for the very first time. Like the preceding sentence, it is clunky and awkward, and yes, otherworldly but not in a good way.
I got one the other day—just a delightful email—that went something like this:
Hey, it was great talking with you the other day. I do have some more questions but we can get to those in a couple weeks. Let me know if you need anything from me.
Great, right? Clear, concise, inviting. It is like a gymnast sprinting toward the springboard, vaulting into the air, and doing majestic flips of communication, made to look easy and just as simple to appreciate and prompt a clear, reasonable response. But the landing is anything but Strug in ’96. It is a disaster. Here is this extra-terrestrial-meets-serial-killer sign-off from the above email:
What even does that mean, Trev? I’ve never once ended a conversation—in person or in my rich fantasy life—with a head nod and a solemn, “Regards.” Not to mention that there are apparently tiers to these regards. I wonder if this maniac ever just gives away regular regards? Was I special to get the tip-top, very best of his regards? Of course, I’ve also seen the even more bizarre Warm Regards. Did you heat them up, sir? Do they come even hotter? Of course they do. You and I both know it. For all of us have been hit with the infamous Warmest Regards. Geez, I don’t even think I want regards that are that hot. Seems like a burn risk. I mean the warmest of all possible regards? Just plain hazardous.
Sincerely is a pretty weird dismount too. I hadn’t questioned, sir, your sincerity till now. But you went and announced it. Do you ever admit to being Insincerely, Trevor (if that is even your real name)? What about other qualities:
We still haven’t arrived at the top of the podium for peculiar farewells. That distinction goes to the religious goodbye. Since I work in the realm of faith I am not unfamiliar with this particular salutation, the most popular of which is In Him, Trevor. The sender is just trying to remind you of his relationship with God at the close of their electronic message asking you to choose a place for lunch or pleading with you to please stop loitering in their lawn. In Him—pfft. I’m unimpressed, guy. But I’m also competitive and ego-driven and a bit religious myself. So I can’t just go all heathen on my signature. What measly thing is a Warm Regard compared to the invocation of the presumed Creator of such regards? So I’ve tried some things out.
More In Him feels good, but I’m scared they may miss what I’m trying to say and More Into God Than You just feels wordy. As does, He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands Including This Email Correspondence. I know it seems like it would work just fine, but trust me, I’ve tried. Sincerely, I have. Here are some other worthy faith-based sign-offs I’ve been testing out with fear and trembling:
With Fear and Trembling, Matt
For By Grace, Matt
Because He Lives, Matt
Jesus Loves Me, Matt (PS – This I Know)
I Believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth, Matt (inspired by the Apostle’s Creed)
Can You Take Me Higher?, Matt (inspired by the band “Creed”)
Wait, that last one doesn’t go there—it is in a different category I’ve been workshopping. Shoot. Sorry, it is just hard to keep straight. There are so many ways to finish these emails off, but the only perquisite is that it cannot be a way you would ever end a regular conversation. Ever.
This must say something of humans—that we are better at beginnings; that we are still figuring things out; that we have a long way left to go. But like a good blogpost, I think it says one thing most clearly: that we don’t know how to end things well . . .