how to write a letter: the closing

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As mentioned in the previous post, the information below concerning longer letters has been taken from chapter 28 of Emily Post’s 1922 book on Etiquette. It contains pertinent advice to any letter writer direct from the golden age of handwritten personal mail.

ENDING A LETTER

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.”

All of these are as bad as they can be, and suggest the untutored man who stands first on one foot and then on the other, running his finger around the brim of his hat, or the country girl twisting the corner of her apron.

HOW TO END A LETTER

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:
  “Good-by, dearest, for to-day  /  Devotedly,  /  Kate.”

Or:   “Best love to you all,  /  Martin.”

Or:
  “Luncheon was announced half a page ago! So good-by, dear Mary, for to-day.”

  The close of a less intimate letter, like taking leave of a visitor in your drawing-room, is necessarily more ceremonious. And the “ceremonious close” presents to most people the greatest difficulty in letter-writing.

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.

 “The mountains were beautiful at sunset.” It 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.

Or:
  “We have had a wonderful trip, but I do miss you all at home, and long to hear from you soon again.”

Or (from one at home):
  “Your closed house makes me very lonely to pass. I do hope you are coming back soon.”

Sometimes an ending falls naturally into a sentence that ends with your signature. “If I could look up now and see you coming into the room, there would be no happier woman in the whole State than  /  Your devoted mother.”

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