You may have noticed that Email and Letter Closings, Part 1 didn’t include thank you, thanks, or have a nice day. That omission may seem strange because all three are popular correspondence endings—they’re just not traditional complimentary closings.* So, today we’re going to take a look at how to use elliptical clauses and sentences as letter closings and email closings.
Elliptical Clauses as Email Closings
A complimentary closing is an adverb (e.g., sincerely) or phrase (e.g., best regards) that can’t function independently as a sentence or clause because it doesn’t have a subject and a simple predicate (the main verb describing what the subject is doing). Although thank you and thanks don’t have subjects, they fall into a loophole because thank you is an elliptical clause.
An elliptical clause omits all or part of the subject or the predicate but is still understood as a complete clause because the missing portion is strongly implied. In the case of thank you, the subject I is missing from I thank you. And while the abbreviation thanks is technically an interjection, it might also be the ultimate informal elliptical clause because almost everything is omitted, yet the recipient of your gratefulness knows that you are actually saying I thank you.
So, should we avoid ending emails with thank you or thanks? Absolutely not! Both are effective endings. They’re just not complimentary closings, so they should be punctuated with a period or exclamation point instead of a comma:
Sentences as Email Closings
Luckily, sentences don’t require the same tedious explanation as elliptical clauses. If you want to end your email with a sentence instead of a complimentary closing, punctuate it with a period, exclamation point, or question mark as you would any other sentence:
Have a nice day!
Let’s have coffee soon.
Do you have any questions?
Elliptical Clauses and Sentences as Letter Closings
Today, print letters are normally reserved for formal situations. As such, stick with traditional complimentary closings instead of elliptical clauses or sentences.
I’m a stickler for grammar and preserving the English language; however, I also believe that certain format issues, such as complimentary closings, are traditionally rather than grammatically correct. As electronic communication continues to replace print, we’ll probably develop new formats for salutations and closings—and antiquated customs will be kicked to the curb of the cyber superhighway upon which we’re all now racing. Therefore, I see very little harm in punctuating thanks with a comma instead of period when closing an informal or semi-formal email.
(Nevertheless, the stickler in me still insists that all complete sentences should end in a period, exclamation point, or questions mark, even if they are functioning as closings! )