Order of names in a letter signature matter when sent from a couple?
May 21, 2013 12:08 AM   Subscribe

My wife and I were writing a brief thank-you note to some friends, and she was helping to edit. I then signed it off as 'Arandia & Wife' -- only my wife says that it should be 'Wife & Arandia', since *I* wrote the letter and it is coming from my email address.

I have never heard of this rule before, but she claims that it is a grammar rule that she remembers from English class. This isn't a formal business letter, just a note between friends -- but ever since 'fixing' it I've become a little curious.

Google has proven marvellously unhelpful here but as the saying goes -- 'absence of evidence is not evidence of absence'. I can't find anyone talking about this 'rule' but that doesn't mean it isn't out there. So, my fellow mefites, I turn to you. Have any of you ever heard of this before?
posted by Arandia to Writing & Language (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Putting yourself last is the custom I was taught. Really, putting others ahead of yourself is the classy thing to do in most contexts.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:25 AM on May 21, 2013 [8 favorites]

I think she is recalling the "rule" that when joining two subjects of a sentence, with one being the first person pronoun, one "should" put the first person pronoun second:

Instead of "Me and John went to the beach" -> "John and I went to the beach"

This, of course, gets hyper-generalised by some speakers to such constructions as "The man who saw John and I", which is grammatically non-standard.

I think your wife is further generalising the rule to situations where two proper names are conjoined, and beyond that even to signing off of letters, which is something I have never heard before.
posted by lollusc at 12:31 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

You put 'I' or 'me' last, invariably, is a rule - "She and I went to the park" "They gave an award to Michael and me".

In the case here where the letter is ostensibly from both of you, I think it's fine. You're not referring to yourselves in the third person, you're appending your signatures to a letter.
posted by Lady Li at 12:33 AM on May 21, 2013

Dodge the issue? "Wife joins me in thanking you. Love, Arandia"
posted by Cranberry at 12:40 AM on May 21, 2013 [4 favorites]

Instead of "Me and John went to the beach" -> "John and I went to the beach"

It makes not a whit of difference what order you say them in, grammatically. "John and I went to the beach" and "I and John went to the beach" are both correct, though the latter is kind of unconventional. "Me and John" is wrong, because 'me' is objective case.
posted by empath at 1:26 AM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

You sign your own name, because birthday or Christmas cards are the only type of correspondence in which you sign off for someone else.

In the body of the letter, you write "Wife and I were so grateful to receive..." "We are looking forward to using your lovely gift..." and that is how you indicate that the letter is from both of you.
posted by tel3path at 1:35 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

The rules of social correspondence hold that one person writes the correspondence and, in order to indicate it comes from the couple, one says in the body of the letter "(name) joins me in (whatever sentiment, action, etc)." One signature. I tend to follow what I was taught insofar as possible. (But I am very old-fashioned; I'm still reeling from the shock of online party invitations.)
posted by Anitanola at 1:37 AM on May 21, 2013

I have also been taught that the writer of the letter should put his or hers name at the end, although I see it more as a custom thing than a grammar thing.

For the reasoning behind it, I've always thought that it's a way of indicating who wrote the letter or card. This is of course clear when it comes from an e-mail address, but for example a postcard from "Tom, Mark, Jane and Caroline" indicates that Caroline wrote the card.
posted by coraline at 2:52 AM on May 21, 2013

When I was married, regardless of who wrote the note, we signed it Jane and Johnny. We never really had a discussion about it, but it was the way my grandmother and mother did it too.

I think the important part is writing the actual note.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:14 AM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Our protocol is to sign off joint, informal, written communiccations "Ben & Josie". Sometimes the order varies, depending on the lead correspondent or the lead relationship. I find the concept of signing Ben and wife odd.
posted by BenPens at 5:26 AM on May 21, 2013

Clearly there's no one way to do this, but whenever sending thank-you letters or correspondence to donors and patrons, my former company would always put the wife ahead of the husband. I personally would be inclined to observe this protocol, in conjunction with the suggestions above that you put yourself last as the author of the letter.
posted by mykescipark at 6:19 AM on May 21, 2013

I do not think there is a "grammar rule" because this is not an issue of grammar. In my experience, salutations to and from married couples place the husband's name first. Maybe you could split the baby - the person whose email address is used gets to decide the closing salutation for the communication.
posted by Tanizaki at 6:21 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is not a "rule" it's personal preference. My preference is to put the name of the person who wrote the note first, especially when writing personal notes to family.
posted by Kimberly at 6:34 AM on May 21, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Out of curiosity, I checked my ancient copy of "The Gregg Reference Manual" (6th ed.) because it seemed like if this was a rule, it would be from the same time period and the Gregg Manual would have it! It does go into a lot of detail about how to arrange signatures of multiple signators and how to reference if someone else wrote the letter or if someone wrote it for the undersigned but another person typed it, ad nauseum. But, even in those cases (most specifically, for multiple people signing a letter), it specifies putting the names on the same line but says nothing about the order or if it indicates the writer. It specifically talks about the reference initials indicating who wrote/typed the letter.

So...I'm guessing this developed as a local or personal custom based on the rule lollusc described.
posted by Eicats at 7:02 AM on May 21, 2013

She might be correct for another reason: I think I have heard that when a husband a wife (John Doe and Jane Doe) sign their Christian names followed by the last name, the wife's name goes first and then the husband's, so that his full name is not split since they share his last name. So it'd be "Sincerely, Jane and John Doe." I've never done this, but has anyone else heard that?

(I like putting the letter-writer's name first, though.)
posted by resurrexit at 7:20 AM on May 21, 2013

My husband and I sign things "Mike and Serena" because we are known as mikeandserena, one word. It's a question of syllables, I guess, more than etiquette: it flows best with the shortest name first.
posted by lydhre at 7:59 AM on May 21, 2013

If we are both writing our signature on it, then we sign things HerName and HisName. That matches the way our social stationary is printed.

As a rule, I don't sign my husband's name. If I'm writing the note or email, then I'm the only one who signs it. In the note I write my thanks on behalf of both of us, but mine is the only signature.
posted by 26.2 at 8:11 AM on May 21, 2013

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