1

My question is specifically about how we close letters. Let's start with fairly archaic valedictions:

Sincerely,
John Smith

With regards,
Jane Smith

Here, "sincerely" describes John Smith and the valediction can be seen as a somewhat grammatically sound fragment. The same applies to "yours truly" or "with best regards". All of these endings are adverbs or adverbial clauses if I'm not mistaken.

Now, let's look at more modern valedictions:

Regards,
John Smith

"Regards," is a standalone fragment by itself, with no connection with the name of the letter's author. "Regards", unlike "with regards" above, is not an adverbial clause describing the state of who/what follows the comma.

Is this construct still grammatically sound?

If we insist on using "Regards!" or "Thanks!", shouldn't we rather be writing the following?

Regards!
- John Smith

Thanks!
- Jane Smith

  • 1
    I have always been curious about ouch! myself. Is it grammatical? – Tᴚoɯɐuo Sep 13 '17 at 17:26
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo I refuse to argue with Schoolhouse Rock – Andrew Sep 13 '17 at 17:36
  • It actually is. Stand-alone interjections followed by exclamation points are correct afaIk. – urnonav Sep 13 '17 at 18:12
3

All of these are shortened versions of longer phrases, which we no longer use (and which only a few people might actually know). For example, the ubiquitous "goodbye" is actually a greatly shortened version of "God be with ye (you)".

So something like "Regards" might be short for

Sending my best regards to you and your family.

or

This letter is sent with kind regards toward you and your family.

As with "goodbye" these expression grow shorter and shorter over time until today we sign off with the briefest possible: "C U"

The grammar doesn't really matter, only what the expressions represent to the reader. "Yours truly", for example, hardly means that I consider myself a devoted servant of the reader. It's just a polite expression to indicate I don't actually loathe them.

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  • 1
    +1 With best regards I ever remain yours most sincerely, Lord Windybottom. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Sep 13 '17 at 17:30
  • @Andrew: Typically, when these "shortenings" happen, the grammar is maintained. For example "goodbye" is still treated as a standalone thought punctuated with an exclamation point or a full stop at the end. What has started to particularly bother me is the construct: "Thanks, (newline) John". Barring the newline (and missing full stop), this is the writer expressing "thanks" to himself - while referring to himself in third person. "Yours truly" is actually quite literal in that you are asserting that your letter that precedes was written truthfully. – urnonav Sep 13 '17 at 18:07
  • @urnonav: You're thinking about this in the wrong way by applying rules that govern utterances to letter-writing. No one says their name after they make a statement, and so when the letter-writer's name is included after the valediction, the action must be following rules other than those governing utterances. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Sep 13 '17 at 18:18
1

The short answer is: It is not a complete sentence. It is not intended to be a complete sentence. Thus, it does not have to be grammatically correct in the sense of having a verb, an object, etc.

Like, if someone says, "What was that over there?" You might reply, "A squirrel." It's not a complete, grammatically correct sentence. No one cares, we know what you mean.

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