The Mercantile’s Guide to Style

It’s easy to forget that the Mercantile Library is a literary center where we conduct serious literary research. This takes such diverse forms as rigorous pen and keyboard testing, painstaking searches of the Internet for information, even prolonged contemplation of the seemingly mundane but actually literarily-trouble-fraught areas of our lives. Friends, the Vandal hordes are insidious. While today’s technological developments are convenient, they present opportunities for Our Common Enemy to dig in, take root. Take the most mundane of literary activities: email—ubiquitous, simple, unconsidered, yet an opportunity for transmitting ones sense of style across the globe. We at the Mercantile Library and Literary Research Center have discovered that the closings of electronic missives have become increasingly devoid of grace and personality. “Your most faithful and beloved servant, Frederick” has become “tks, Fred.” How tragic, this wasted chance to deliver a final flourish with the zest of Zorro’s penultimate zag. We offer, therefore, the following guide to common errors.

“Thanks, Fred”: The most widely abused of the closings, in terms of dishonesty and sheer boringness. Are you really thankful for the communication? Also, it has a whiff of the apologetic, as though you owe some person, unseen across the void, for their deigning grace your inbox with their inane jibber-jabber. Rather the incisive hyphen than such hollow simpering.

“-Fred”: The hyphen is effective . . . if you intend to bore your correspondents with darts dipped in soporific ink. Truly, under a daily hail of these irritating splinters, are we not each and every one of us as mighty Gulliver, felled by Lilliputian barbs?

“Cheers, Fred”: Are you English, Fred? Have you been drinking? Ought you, in all properness, parade your anglophile sentiments before philistine eyes to be spit on and marred by the unwashed? Electronic mail is not a pub. Nor are you at Wimbledon sipping squash.

“Best, Fred”: This is the best you can do? This litany of clichés and stale phrases? Unless with loving labors in verse you have forged this email, this is not, strictly speaking, your “best”, is it, Fred?/so truth and beauty/bereft of meaning/get polluted. “Have a Great Day, Fred”: This language you are reading is called English. The reasons for this are manifold, testimony to the epic greatness of an island people. No? You’re American? Clearly your revolution, while economically semi-successful, failed culturally, which is fine, but let’s face it, the English, bearers of your tongue, are not an optimistic people, and they eschew sentimentality—this grotesque, unfettered gushing is not proper to users of a tongue that carries, like St. George’s blood red shield, the faire olde name “English. “See ya”, “take it easy”, or “later, Fred”: For those of you unfamiliar with the film “Slacker”, this is exactly the sort of amiable laziness that prevented Austin, Texas from becoming any more than a Podunk, nowhere town in Texas, by all the world forgotten.

Your most cordial brother in vigilance for the honor of our common, which is not to suggest “ordinary”, language,

Ed Scripsi

Published in: on May 30, 2008 at 2:44 pm  Comments (8)  

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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I always use “Thanks, Kevin”. It’s weak, I know. What are my other options?


  2. I think you should use the “Bridging demographics” style of closing:
    “Chief Executive and Pubah of Building Cincinnati dot com,
    Kevvy Kev”
    This hits the hip-hop and the corporate audiences, and many demographics in between.

  3. Hmm…that could work!

  4. I’ve always been partial towards, Yours Till They Drink Canada Dry. However, nowadays, I just adopt a rather bland, “Cya!”.

    Yours most graciously and courteously if not sagaciously,

  5. How about “Thanks in advance, Fred”? It’s compact, polite, and avoids the dreaded one-word bounceback.

  6. I typically sign a letter to close family or friends “Love,” or “Take care,” a letter to a colleague or student “Best regards,” and a business letter with the traditional “Sincerely.” But Mr. Scripsi has a point – our written communications could be so much more interesting! For example, I could end many of my letters to students with:

    “Your learned instructor, whose meager salary your tuition dollars do pay, but whose dignity cannot be purchased in the form of inflated grades – nay, not even upon much pleading or feigning of adulation,”

    When signing a cover letter for a job application, I could sign as follows:

    “Humbly seeking employment with your institution, whereupon I have compiled and here include for your review an application in which I package and sell myself like so much laundry detergent,”

    (Have I ever mentioned how much I detest applying for jobs?)

    Ahh, yes, the possibilities are endless…

  7. These last couple of comments demonstrate another level of the closing: Closing as Rhetorical Combat.
    Whenever possible, anticipate their next move, seize the upper hand, parry, thrust and, if necessary, make your opponent–I mean conversant–feel awkward. That’ll teach ’em.
    I never realized just how awkward the word awkward is.
    Your drawkward correspondent,

  8. nyC4jh hi! hice site!

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