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The Art of Letter Writing: Ending On a Good Note



There is something so inevitably awkward about closing a letter. Often, if the letter is any good, it has begun to deviate from its initial purpose, winding off into some rambling–albeit probably interesting–route.  This rambling makes the letter that much harder to close in that if a letter has already strayed from its express purpose, what’s to stop the writing now?

Emily Post recognizes this issue, and offers some great and timeless advice:

  • Firstly, resist the urge to end abruptly: “Just as the beginning of a letter should give the reader an impression of greeting, so should the end express friendly or affectionate leave-taking. Nothing can be worse than to seem to scratch helplessly around in the air for an idea that will effect your escape. ‘Well, I guess I must stop now,’ ‘Well, I must close,’ or, ‘You are probably bored with this long epistle, so I had better close.'” This kind of hasty close is the opposite of subtle; your recipient is sure to notice!
  • End an intimate letter in the same manner it is composed: Emily clarifies, “An intimate letter has no end at all. When you leave the house of a member of your family, you don’t have to think up an especial sentence in order to say good-by. Leave-taking in a letter is the same.” She suggests you try, “‘Good-by, dearest, for to-day,”Will write again in a day or two,’or ‘Luncheon was announced half a page ago! So good-by, dear Mary, for to-day.'”
  • Try ending with a personal anecdote or image: Emily dictates, “It is really quite simple, if you realize that the aim of the closing paragraph is merely to bring in a personal hyphen between the person writing and the person written to,” continuing, “‘The mountains were beautiful at sunset.’is a bad closing sentence because ‘the mountains’ have nothing personal to either of you. But if you can add ‘-they reminded me of the time we were in Colorado together,’ or ‘-how different from our wide prairies at home,’ you have crossed a bridge, as it were.”

Look forward to more letter writing tips (and Emily Post wisdom) next Tuesday!

Emily Post quotes from her book Etiquette, published in 1922.

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