writes: "Thereís a question confuses me for quite a long time. When I
write to my group people, by the end of the letter, I need to close the
letter by regards, best regards, kind regards, warm regards, best
wishes, your sincere, your truely. Iíll appreciated if you can tell
me the differences between all these phases."
Wei Li, whose spoken English is excellent,
is a Chinese tour guide. She goes by "Julie" for the sake of the
non-Chinese-speaking people in her groups, people like me. My wife and I
had the pleasure of being in Wei Liís warm, capable care for two weeks
while we toured China.
As I discovered when studying French
during my junior year in Aix-en-Provence, one of the many advantages of
translingual communication is that it offers insights into your own
language as well as into the language of the people you are encountering.
Wei Liís question made me think about the subtle differences in the
various ways we close our correspondence.
Hereís what I told her about our
closings, from formal to personal:
Sincerely: standard close on paper; also
fine for email in business correspondence (but too formal for your
messages to your tour group members)
Yours sincerely: slightly more personal
but still formal
somewhat more informal, but as a matter of
conventional use, more formal than the words suggest
kind regards, warm regards, best wishes:
friendly, but still
close for email, appropriate for friends (and fine for messages to your
tour group members)
appropriate for close friends and family (and fine for tour group members,
but after, not during, your tours, when you are emphasizing continuing
relationship rather than conveying necessary information)
friendly, playful, hip
for very close friends and family members
Shan Hu, one of our four local guides,
writes: "hereís my question. is there any word or phrase in English (like
whatís wrong & whatís wrong with you) which easily by
misunderstanding leads to offensive meaning?"
Shan Hu, whose names mean "kind-hearted"
and "tiger," naturally goes by "Tony." Like any sophisticated
communicator, Shan Hu understands that words often take on non-literal,
idiomatic meanings that might be crude or offensive. Asking a tour group
member, "Whatís wrong with you?" meaning "Why are you so obnoxious?" is
very different from asking, "Whatís wrong?" meaning "Are you having a
problem that I can help you resolve?"
Falling into that category are questions
such as "Whatís your problem?" and "Whatís the matter with you?" and
statements such as "Youíre a trying person" when the intended meaning is
"You try hard."
So to my friends, Wei Li and Shan Hu:
Take care. Please give my regards (not my kind regards) to Charlie,
Nick, and Jack, who also who did a wonderful job of taking care of us. We
tried not to be too trying.