Are 'hugs and kisses' a new email hazard?

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Lois A. Bowers
Lois A. Bowers

“V/R” was the salutation on a business email that my husband received this week. Unfamiliar with this closing, he Googled it. “Virtual regards” was the definition he thought most fitting, so he replied to the sender that his correspondence had helped him learn something new.

The sender, however, told my husband that he had meant “very respectfully,” a salutation that he had learned while serving in the military. So my husband still learned something.

V/R, even if some people have to look it up, seems more professional to me than “XO,” which has been used for a long time to mean hugs and kisses. That salutation increasingly is being used by women in the workplace, according to a former colleague of mine. A business coach she interviewed for a freelance writing assignment told her as much. 

“Am I getting old?” she asked on Facebook, seeking input from her contacts there. “Does anyone really do this? I do send an awful lot of professional emails and have never seen this.” She cited a recent Huffington Post article discussing the trend, and my own Internet search uncovered older articles as well.

Although I can see using such “language” with friends, perhaps even with friends at work in informal emails, I cannot understand why anyone would act in such a way otherwise, especially in the workplace. And I appear not to be in the minority, at least among my former co-worker's Facebook friends. There, reactions ranged from “totally unprofessional” to “this seems really bizarre” to “I've always heard that women especially should avoid using emoticons, exclamation points and certain words that seem ‘weak.' ”

Business coaches maintain that using such language can be empowering for women, according to my friend. Yes, in much the same way that Kim Kardashian sharing a nude selfie with her Twitter followers is a show of feminism, I'm sure.

The business coach told my friend that instead of meaning hugs and kisses, women are using XO with one another — even if they've never met before — to mean “I've got your back.” And I know someone who uses it to mean thank you. But in an age when many women still struggle to be taken seriously in the workplace and when gender discrimination and sexual harassment still exist, I'm trying to watch the backs of women reading this column when I share these three little words: Don't do it. Don't use XO in your professional emails. Why introduce confusion into your communication?

Or, if you want to use a salutation that others may not understand at first, try V/R.

It's very respectful.

Lois A. Bowers is senior editor of McKnight's Senior Living. Follow her on Twitter at @Lois_Bowers.


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