Academics: your new years resolution

… is to stop signing emails with “best.” Seriously people, this is such a cascade. You all do it because you see other academics do it. Nobody will judge you if you take the daring step of using “sincerely,” or even “yours.”

The “best” plague has reached unbearable levels. It has been observed in use in emails between grad students on a private and informal intradepartmental listserv. Next, it’ll infect the pillow-talk. “Oh honey, you taste so good. Also, I want to problematize the male/female binary opposition. Best, me.” This must be stopped.

Lawyers had a pet closing for letters when I was practicing. I forget what it was — maybe “very truly yours?” Or maybe I’ve suppressed the memory. It’s annoying for academics and it was annoying for lawyers. Anyway, I used “cordially” then (it took some time to get secretaries used to it), and I use “cordially,” or what-the-fuck-ever I want or nothing at all now and nobody has punished me yet.

The only thing you have to fear is the slightest bit of nonconformity. And the scorpions. Angry, angry scorpions. Which I will put under your pillow if you send me an email signed with “best.” Perhaps I shall start sending “worst” emails.

And on that cheery note it’s off to sleep then to Buenos Aires – some content-free posts are scheduled, but I’m basically incommunicado until 2009. Have a good holiday, everyone. Unless I dislike you, in which case please be slowly skinned alive in a horrible accident involving an electric pencil sharpener, three Clydesdales, 10,000 volts of direct current and Nicholas Sarcozy.




12 Responses to “Academics: your new years resolution”

  1. Daniel Goldberg Says:

    I admit, I fail to see the problem with “best.” What bothers you so much about it? That it is so common?

    I use different closings as the case warrants. I use “sincerely” when I want to be more formal, “warmly” when it’s a colleague but also a friend, “yours very truly” when I want to express something close to gratitude, and yes, I use “best” because I think it tends to convey a reasonable mixture of formal professionalism without the excessive stuffiness of “Sincerely.”

    I’m open to being disabused, if you’d care to explain what exactly is so horrible about the term.

    Worstly yours,


  2. Paul Gowder Says:

    Partly it’s the (IMO silly) idea that these rote things convey anything at all, and partly, yes, it’s because it’s so common, people adopt it out of sheer conformism. Maybe not you, but many people.

  3. Matt Says:

    I often use “best”, sometimes “best wishes”, sometimes “Sincerely” (for more formal things.) For the people I like more or know better its usually “as always”. I do sort of like the style you can see in letters from the start of the 20th C., things like, “regards, etc.,” as if they just couldn’t write out the rest, or “I remain”, but w/o something like “your humble servant”, as if there were some chance they might have become someone else. But, “very truly yours” (which is a lawyer thing) makes me gag and want to punch them in the gut. Maybe I’ll switch to “best wishes, etc.”

  4. Mike Says:

    I hate it, too. But how do you sign off?

    Peace out,

    I hate small talk, talking about the weather, and other mundane things. But, well,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, what is the solution?

  5. belle lettre Says:

    Aw, what am I supposed to do now? I _like_ giving people all my best, and being wished the best. I occasionally do “regards,” and with people I know socially I use “always.” What am I being sincere about to sign off “sincerely,” and I am not true to anyone except TD so there is no truly, and I will _not_ say that I am yours, much less very truly yours. I blame the patriarchy. I sign off “love” to very few people.

    The purely unemotional sign off is a hyphen and my initials, but that’s a little cold.

  6. Comrade PhysioProf Says:

    I use “best regards” for the initial communication from my end in a conversation, followed by just my name, followed by nothing at all.

  7. Paul Gowder Says:

    Matt has the right intuitions. “I remain” is lovely. So are similar fin de siècleish sounding things like “yrs, &c” which I have been known to break out when I’m bored with “cordially.”

    (From B.A., on 15 minutes of free internet in a hotel that is expensive & swanky enough that they ought not be that stingy, but perhaps it’s for the best, or else I might well just sit on the internet all day. I don’t even have a cellphone with me. And I may be driven mad by the fact that I’m traveling with my mother, but hopefully will not become a psychopath in the next six days. xoxoxo.)

    (xoxoxo is also an excellent closing.)

  8. Paul Gowder Says:

    Also, “peace out” strikes me as an excellent closing.

    Michael Ray, an insane (but extremely brilliant and awesome) trumpet player of my acquaintaince (I used to be his manager), signs all his correspondence with “space.” But he used to play with Sun Ra, so he can get away with that kind of thing.

    But perhaps that is the ideal: to have one’s own closing, unique and expressive.


    “Bugger off,



    Perhaps not. Perhaps not.

  9. Paul Gowder Says:







    “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect,



  10. belle lettre Says:

    In law school, people signed off:

    Study Hard!

    True fact.

    Truth to Power,

  11. belle lettre Says:

    BTW, “Daisy” is an example name. It was not like Daisy is a necessary part of the “Study Hard!” sign-off.

  12. Anna Says:

    I think ‘Best’ is okay if its a professional/formal setting. Although I’ve seen some professors sign off with their initials. But maybe thats just for correspondence with lowly grad students. =)

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