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I've been wondering this for a while. What is the correct usage of "P.S." in e-mails? Where should and shouldn't it be used?

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migrated from english.stackexchange.com Jun 7 '11 at 9:16

This question came from our site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts.

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Uhm, maybe I'm wrong, but to me this question looks more related to "how to write an e-mail" rather than something strictly related to English... –  Alenanno Jun 6 '11 at 20:38
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What about French, Spanish, Italian, German? If I copied and pasted this question in any of those SE sites (pretending some of them already exist), the question would "fit"... Unless you're asking for something specifically about English usage of P.S., then I'd be wrong. –  Alenanno Jun 6 '11 at 20:43
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I don't get the votes to close. P.S. is a linguistic element, and email is a linguistic medium. The proper usage is a reasonable thing to ask about, even if it's not easy to arrive at a concensus. –  FumbleFingers Jun 6 '11 at 22:48
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possible duplicate of Is Postscript still useful in the age of email? –  Ralph Gallagher Jun 7 '11 at 14:38
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This is borderline writers/English, so I think we should be inclusive and allow this here. It's also kind of a dupe of an existing question - it got a flag for that - with a slightly different spin. To that user, thanks for flagging, but I think it fails the test of answers interchangeable between the two questions = duplicate. –  Neil Fein Apr 23 '12 at 14:23
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P.S. in e-mails is used exactly the same as P.S. in normal letters. It is short for the Latin post scriptum, i.e. written after the main script. As such, it is written at the bottom (end) of the main script (main e-mail in this case), and generally contains information which is trivial, or tangental to what was just said. For example,

I'm starting my new job on Monday. Really looking forward to it. I'm going to be working as a clothes designer.

P.S. Do you still like making clothes?

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I know it's only an example, but if I got an email from someone I didn't know well enough to already know what their new job was going to be, that particular P.S. wouldn't seem trivial or tangential to me. I'd assume [s]he was sounding me out to work on making up the clothes [s]he was going to be designing! :-) –  FumbleFingers Jun 6 '11 at 21:29
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To be exact, Post Scriptum means "after what has been written"... By the way, Post Scriptum can also contain important information, the real feature is that you wrote it after you finished the letter, because you forgot to write it in the main body... And here I kind of agree with @FumbleFingers, in "formal" e-mails, it might sound weird... Maybe if they are informal, it can be ignored. –  Alenanno Jun 7 '11 at 0:30
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Personally I think P.S. is never really 'appropriate' in emails.

The whole point of a post-scriptum is it's something you think of after the main text has already been written. By which time in the old days of pen-and-ink you'd have already written your closing lines, and most likely signed it as well.

With electronic writing such as emails, just go back and add the extra text in the main body. Don't insult your reader by subjecting him to badly-organised text just because you can't be bothered to organise it before you click on Send.

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So should books (written on computers, typewriter or with pen) never have footnotes, or does it mean the author was too lazy to go back and edit the main body? I know PS and footnotes are not quite the same thing, but I think they could be used in similar ways. –  Hugo Jun 6 '11 at 22:16
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@Hugo: Footnotes are quite common in the kind of 'pop science' books I often read, but to be honest I don't really like them that much. I'm never sure when to break off from the main thread, so sometimes I never actually read them at all. Similar to the disjointed style in New Scientist (Time may be more familiar if you're US), but at least in those the 'supplementary' text/diagrams are big enough to draw you in when you reach the end of a paragraph in the main article. –  FumbleFingers Jun 6 '11 at 22:33
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I think it is certainly appropriate as a stylistic element in emails as well. Although the technical necessity of a post scriptum addition may be obsolete, placing something in a "P.S." emphasizes its being an afterthought, which is an expression in itself. –  WAF Jun 7 '11 at 0:34
    
@WAF: All sounds like pretty subtle nuancing for an email. We're not talking carefully-crafted prose here. –  FumbleFingers Jun 7 '11 at 1:50
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As FumbleFingers already noted, the post scriptum should appear after the main body of the text, perhaps even after the signature. With that said, I do agree with FumbleFingers that the construct likely has no place in E-mail.

I would like to additionally point out that there is another use for P.S. besides adding a new thought to the correspondence: I have often seen P.S. used in E-mails to incite a new thread of conversation that is tangent to the main topic. While I think that might be a legitimate use in other forms of correspondence, it is generally considered bad netiquette when used in E-mail. Although the rule was not written in the original RFC, it is generally considered bad form to change the topic of an E-mail thread; topics should be changed by sending a separate E-mail, thus starting a new thread.

With that said, in rare cases I think the P.S. construct might be acceptable if used like a footnote, i.e., to provide some additional clarification on something from the main body of text that is likely unnecessary, and would otherwise hamper the flow of the main text.

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Well I did specifically say never really 'appropriate' rather than just never appropriate, and I think you've identified some aspects of 'excusable' exceptions. I don't do work emails much these days, but I always preferred a second email to receiving one email with an unrelated addendum. I really do think it's often just lack of consideration for people who might want/need to deal with things in an orderly and efficient manner. –  FumbleFingers Jun 6 '11 at 21:21
    
I do use it in emails if the email itself is a formal business message, but the recipient is also a friend outside work. This makes it easy for them to forward on work related content while stripping out personal stuff, eg. Attached are those reports your Director asked for, yada yada, regards, Rory. p.s. You up for a beer after work? –  Rory Alsop Jun 6 '11 at 22:58
    
@Rory Alsop: Haha glad I didn't work with you then. Maybe I'm anal, but I'd rather have the bit about the beer on a separate email. Or a call would have been better. Besides, what if I wanted to forward the work stuff to others? No thanks. –  FumbleFingers Jun 7 '11 at 1:53
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PS stands for "Please see" in the e-mails, to highlight something important. There is no need of Post script in the e-mails. Post script is outdated technique which was used in earlier days when there were no e-mails.

Thanks

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I don't think "please see" is the "P.S." that the original poster intended - particularly as OP accepted a "post scriptum" answer. –  Standback Apr 23 '12 at 8:58
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Using "P.S." decreases your signal-to-noise ratio and degrades your ability to communicate clearly.

P.S. may be appropriate when using set ink or stone, however, in modern times, it is archaic and inexcusable as you can easily move text around.

As such, PS should never be used in an email.

(unless you do not care about communicating clearly)


By using PS in an email, you have demonstrated a failure to ask:

  • What is the point of this email?
  • What type of response do I want from it?

If your intention was to find out if someone still enjoyed making clothes, then your first sentence should have been:

"Do you still enjoy making clothes?"

If it wasn't the most pressing issue in the email, than it should have been tied closely to the sentence that was.

Otherwise, if you were just curious, say so:

"I'm curious, do you still enjoy making clothes?"


Refs:

http://www.nature.com/scitable/ebooks/english-communication-for-scientists-14053993 http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887324735104578117193149868504 https://writers.stackexchange.com/questions/9226/using-p-s-in-a-formal-email#

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Depends on the email. P.S is valid in an informal email, and is also acceptable when content after the P.S is completely unrelated to the email body. –  CLockeWork Feb 7 at 9:55
    
Do you have any particular basis for concluding that "PS should never be used in an email?" –  Pravesh Parekh Feb 9 at 16:27
    
@PraveshParekh yes, PS is sloppy; it rescues your signal-to-noise by making it less clear what the purpose of your email was as a PS comment may be an entirely different subject matter (and perhaps should be a different email) or an aside, or something you thought of that needs an urgent response. Not using it forces you to decide where in the message the information is actually appropriate, and help you make it more clear as to why that information is there. –  virtualxtc Feb 9 at 21:01
    
That is your personal opinion. Where exactly have you read that PS is sloppy and should never be used? –  Pravesh Parekh Feb 9 at 23:33
    
@PraveshParekh references added just for you. –  virtualxtc Feb 10 at 8:34
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