“Dear”, “Regards”, “Sincerely” – Really?

By Rakesh Ahuja
I recall the moment of a revelation well. It was a dispute with Harcourts insurance company re damage to my Canberra house by a violent storm. I started to write to the Manager, and as befits an old codger, I started to write “Dear Mr….”. I bridled. Recently released from diplomatic chains, I felt free to reject such hypocrisy, and have never used “Dear” unless I mean it. Ever since I have only used “Good morning/afternoon/night” as the salutation to start off a written communication. While I would not take credit for starting this ‘movement’, I do note that my interlocutors never address me with “Dear Rakesh”.
Now, 20 years later, another revelation!
Billions of communications end with “Regards” followed by the name of the sender. I must have sent a million-odd in my life; other variations I have used being “warm regards” or “warmest”.
In my career, I drafted tens of messages from Australian Ministers to other Heads of Governments and counterparts. Depending on the state of the relationship, most ended with an anodyne formulation. The one I recall vividly is the one I drafted from Prime Minister Hawke to Gorbachev upon his accession as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1985. It ended with “regards”. Why did I have not the gumption to draft ” Peace/Mir, Bob Hawke”?
76 years later, I realise that I have been using a British colonial relic formulation. I write “Regards” but do I mean it? What do I feel when I write it? Anything? Looking back, nothing.
There are hundreds of other concluding formulations. “Best” etc. We need to learn to express what we feel when concluding a missive to another. Why not be honest? Sure, in business or official communications one has to be ‘neutral’. But there is still scope for conveying a feeling to anyone anywhere in any context.
I have now decided that I must do so. Hence, I am now compiling a Library – a stock of signature endings – of what feelings I want to convey in concluding my messages to business colleagues, friends and lovers, service suppliers and so on. These ‘endings’ will usually be quotes, but personal soul-thoughts too.
This collection of SignatureStock will be available to you for use in your own communications.