A sign of the times?
December 13, 2013 7:04 PM   Subscribe

I just had someone tell me that it is correct to close a letter with “Signed, [Mr. Letter Writer].” It’s the use of the word “Signed” that I find strange and just wrong. I have never in my life seen this and am having a hard time believing it is acceptable. Can anyone enlighten me?
posted by Dolley to Writing & Language (36 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Seems fine to me. To state the obvious:

[This letter is] signed [by],
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 7:09 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Way back when in the 80s, when kids were still graded on their cursive writing, this was totally a thing. I haven't seen a letter ended with "signed" in quite a while ("regards" or some such has replaced it) but yeah, it was good form at one point.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:09 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

It does not appear to be standard for business correspondence these days (here's a fun rundown of the options.) I'm having trouble finding anything referring to "signed" as an option at all, although it was definitely the 80s schoolroom closing of choice.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:12 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Completely appropriate, if not commonly used.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 7:15 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

It is certainly acceptable. It's not one of the top ten, but it doesn't cross the line into weird or affected. I would not think twice if I received business correspondence, print or digital, closed this way (and I receive a lot of business correspondence).

Personally, I use "Cheers," and this is certainly a step up from that.
posted by 256 at 7:16 PM on December 13, 2013

It's used frequently in legal correspondence.
posted by cribcage at 7:17 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

It is? I have never seen it in legal correspondence. (IAAL.)
posted by raf at 7:19 PM on December 13, 2013 [4 favorites]

It is. I am, too.
posted by cribcage at 7:20 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Despite having been in grammar school during the 80s, I don't recall ever encountering that as a suggested way to end a letter. It's bizarre to me too. It seems like the author of the letter is speaking of themselves in the third person, whereas the phrases I recall learning in school all seemed to be in the first person.

The context I do remember hearing this in is when a character on television or in a film was reading a letter out loud. But I always thought it was parenthetical, like explanatory comments from the transcriber in closed captioning, not what was supposed to have actually been written.
posted by XMLicious at 7:31 PM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have used it way back when. Mostly when the correspondence was strictly a business statement. Or a command of some type.

"This is to notify you that I will no longer whatever-whatever, as of this date.

posted by raisingsand at 7:34 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I personally think that's affected, if technically correct. If you're signing it, it's redundant to write "Signed." And maybe overly formal/dated? I'm with XMLicious, this is something one would read aloud, not actually write. (I attended grammar school in the '70s.)
posted by Specklet at 7:51 PM on December 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

It's correct, but stupid.
posted by HotToddy at 8:06 PM on December 13, 2013 [7 favorites]

It's completey appropriate, but it signals a chilly vibe. I would use it only if I were writing a complaint letter, to indicate that in my miffed state I would not be willing to use "cordially," "with thanks," or any other closing.
posted by Miko at 8:20 PM on December 13, 2013 [4 favorites]

How about advice column use, eg,

Perplexed in Winnipeg
posted by lulu68 at 8:29 PM on December 13, 2013 [4 favorites]

Is this a regionalism? In Malaysia during English classes we were taught to always use "Sincerely".
posted by divabat at 8:32 PM on December 13, 2013

I'd rather see that than 'Best'.
posted by matty at 8:36 PM on December 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

No, we are also taught that, and English letter closings (and salutations) are institutionally taught and because of that, not very regionalized. "Sincerely" is very common - I stopped using it because it is a truncation of "Sincerely yours" and that's an oddly intimate sentiment for a letter, but I'm taking it a lot more seriously than most people probably do, or should. "Best" works for me because it is a closing wish. "Sincerely" seems just to hang there waiting for a "sincerely...what?" Signed at least just says what it is.
posted by Miko at 8:36 PM on December 13, 2013

I was taught that it was a proper option when I took Business Typing in the early 90s. To give you an idea of the time frame we're discussing, the class was taught using Selectric typewriters. It was meant to teach us 1) how to type and 2) proper business formats. Even then it was considered formal and mainly for business use. "Sincerely" was considered preferable, for what it's worth.
posted by RogueTech at 8:44 PM on December 13, 2013

It's acceptable. However, it is extremely formal and cold, and only something you would ever use if: A.) you don't care how you come off, and B.) you don't know the recipient personally.

In business, at least in my region, the most common signoff is "Thanks," as that is friendly and shows a little more gratitude.
posted by Old Man McKay at 8:50 PM on December 13, 2013

I associate this with letters that are printed in a newspaper or transmitted in some other way that does not allow them to be literally signed. In those cases, "Signed, mbrubeck" would signify my intention of signing the letter even though it isn't literally signed by my own hand.

But I can't find any reference to support that, so I might just have invented it without realizing it.
posted by mbrubeck at 9:01 PM on December 13, 2013 [4 favorites]

In my touch typing class in 1950, the business letter original was signed in the three spaces we left above the line on which we typed "(Signed) Boss N Bossman." (The spaces followed the complimentary close which could be "Sincerely yours" or some other more or less formal close of the writer's choosing.) There were no word processors or copy machines, so carbon copies were kept which could be initialed and sent as necessary to indicate the original had indeed been signed by Bossman. If carbons were going out, the CC: line(s) named the parties receiving copies. The transcriptionist/typist's initials were affixed so if any typos were involved she could be held accountable. The bane of our existence was multi-carbons with a mistake near the end. Automatic do over. We also had to set margins and know how to hyphenate words to break lines at the right margin. When I first got an Apple MacIntosh with so many fonts, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.
posted by Anitanola at 9:05 PM on December 13, 2013 [7 favorites]

“Signed” is a description of what you are doing rather than a complimentary close, and I think that Anitanola has the explanation of why such a thing might appear and cause confusion.

For a look at valedictories/complimentary closes from the most formal (and archaic): “I remain, Sir, your faithful and obedient servant,” to the modern and informal: “All the best,” take a look at the valediction page on Wikipedia.

Veuillez agréer, Madame, l'expression de mes sentiments distingués

posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 9:21 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I haven't ever seen anyone other than elementary schoolkids use this as the closing of a letter.

I use "Yours, &c" because it entertains me to do so.
posted by elizardbits at 9:38 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've seen it before. I wouldn't find it odd in most serious legal and business letters.
When we send out correspondence at my workplace (government), we use "sincerely". I personally use "Thanks" for work emails.
My boss uses "best." He is German so I'm not sure if that's a cultural thing.
posted by KogeLiz at 9:52 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is commonly seen in letters to the editor, along with group letters with multiple signatories. I see it most often from things like city councils all signing a letter of recognition or whatever.
posted by klangklangston at 9:53 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It is not appropriate, and it is not typically used in legal correspondence. I look at legal correspondence on a daily basis for my job, and I've never seen it before.
posted by John Cohen at 9:54 PM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I transcribed god-knows-how-many business letters in the 11 years I worked in offices in private business (especially through Kelly Services - all sorts, from banks to construction); the aerospace industry (Hughes and Kaiser Aerospace), the University of Arizona (three departments, many professors), lawyers (only two), and if I ever had anyone close a letter with "Signed," I can't remember it.

Now, my office experience was prior to the 80s, so I don't know if such a salutation became acceptable in that era, but it certainly wasn't prior to that. When I was taking business courses in college and high school, if I had constructed a business letter with that closing, I'd have been corrected - no go.

So, with my age taken into consideration, I can only say that it speaks of


The King of More Important People Than You'll Ever Manage to Be

or perhaps a collection notice.

We get notices on our bulletin board in this old folks apartment complex where I live that say,



Just as I said - signed by The King
posted by aryma at 9:59 PM on December 13, 2013 [5 favorites]

Petition example.
posted by klangklangston at 10:02 PM on December 13, 2013

It's fine, but so formal that I would never use it in a personal letter and probably not even a business letter. Maybe in a complaint to a company or something.
posted by windykites at 3:52 AM on December 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

It was good enough for Hector P. Valenti.
posted by HuronBob at 4:38 AM on December 14, 2013

Best answer: I send, receive, and read a lot of letters in legal practice. I have never seen this before and it seems odd to me.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:52 AM on December 14, 2013

(Just to add - I have never heard that any closure was correctly followed by "Mr. Letter Writer", "Ms. Letter-Writer", etc. It would always be "James Letter-Writer" or "Mary Letter-Writer, PhD" or whatever qualification was relevant to the letter. It would be bad form, for instance, to sign a letter to a recipe column "James Letter-Writer, DDS" because that would suggest that your dental qualifications were relevant to your recipe for massaged kale salad.

Alternatively, you could add your titles this way, if relevant: "Mary Letter-Writer, PhD/Dean/School of Economics/Newtown University. But I was taught that less is generally more in correspondence - it's the sign of an insecure or badly taught blowhard to be over-formal or excessively nice about titles unless they are directly relevant to the matter at hand.)
posted by Frowner at 8:21 AM on December 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Since this appears to be a prickly issue for a few AskMe lawyers, I double-checked. On quick perusal through recent correspondence I found several letters that close this way, including from one of the big three law firms here in Boston, a trial court, and one of the largest firearms manufacturers in the United States. I also have similar letters (including one from the same firm) that close with "Best" and "Sincerely," and at least one that contains no closing at all, just a name and address with a signature.

Based on what you've marked best, it appears that more than seeking enlightenment (per your question), you were looking for agreement that a particular closing is to be discouraged. So goeth prerogative. To echo the first comment in the thread, they all seem fine to me. I've seen a lot of closings: "Warmly," "Truly," "Yours," "Thanks," "Respectfully," etc. The only reason I notice them—or find this interesting—is that I graduated from an editing program and I'm naturally curious about such things. But to actually raise my eyebrow and start me thinking about propriety, a correspondent would need to go pretty far astray.

I've seen "Yours in Christ." I didn't blink. Maybe some letter recipients are just more tightly wound. It's a big world out there. Good luck, and happy holidays.
posted by cribcage at 8:45 AM on December 14, 2013 [6 favorites]

In my experience, "Signed," is usually used in two situations:

1. Making a formal announcement often to the public or to a group of people:
"The elevator will be under repair on 12 December. Signed, the Management"

2. In a document where someone is promising to do something or acknowledging something (eg, a debt)
"I hereby acknowledge that I owe banishedimmortal the sum of $500 payable on 12 Dec. Signed, John"

Also, in legal documents you will sometimes see the word "Signed" or "/s/" on a signature line when the document is a copy that does not actually include their signature, to indicate that they have signed a the original of the document.

Finally, I also remember writing "Signed," before my signature in letters back in grade school when learning cursive although I have no idea why.
posted by banishedimmortal at 11:21 AM on December 14, 2013

Best answer: Never saw this before in real life, and if I ever did I'd assume it was somebody who didn't know how to write a letter mimicking something they'd heard on TV or something.
posted by Rykey at 11:49 AM on December 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm in Australia, I've never seen this on a letter written to a specific person, but I've seen it on letters to the editor, notices on noticeboards and other non-personal correspondence.

I think it's because writing "Yours sincerely" to no-one in particular would sound odd.
posted by dave99 at 2:43 AM on December 15, 2013

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