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'xoxo': the new 'Kind Regards'

Gossip Girl - the TV show who used the "xoxo" sentiment with sarcasm.

Gossip Girl - the TV show who used the "xoxo" sentiment with sarcasm.

You know language and the way you communicate is changing when your mum discovers Emojis; you start using full stops to demonstrate anger; and you do more (virtual) kissing and hugging than a stoned hippie at Woodstock.

Ever since I once (accidentally) sent an email to my boss with "Love you, Warmest Regards", the way I sign off correspondence these days is a measured and considered decision.

I'm now making an effort to rein in my exploitation of the vowel and consonant combo. 

"A simple 'xo' saves the embarrassment of having to use the word 'love' when you want to be warm towards someone,'' Dr Pauline Bryant, the Australian National University's Visiting Fellow of Language Studies says. ''It's gone from being a secret sign off between sweethearts, who used to sign love letters with 'x' or 'SWALK' [sealed with a loving kiss] to just showing a general warmth towards the person you are corresponding to."

Texts from Hillary, a website dedicated to one image of the former US Secretary of State texting on her BlackBerry, included 32 posts, 83,000 shares on Facebook, 8,400 Twitter followers, over 45,000 Tumblr followers and news stories around the world. There has been no word if Mrs Clinton was using Emoji's or signing off "xo".

Texts from Hillary, a website dedicated to one image of the former US Secretary of State texting on her BlackBerry, included 32 posts, 83,000 shares on Facebook, 8,400 Twitter followers, over 45,000 Tumblr followers and news stories around the world. There has been no word if Mrs Clinton was using Emoji's or signing off "xo". Photo: Texts from Hillary

There's a scene from 30 Rock where Alec Baldwin is filming an in-house video and is at a loss as to what he should do with his arms, something Liz and Pete call "overthinking your acting". "It's weird what do I do with my arms? I've never thought about that before," he says awkwardly standing and walking with his arms outstretched.

That awkwardness is what I'm like dealing with people digitally on a daily basis - just replace clueless outstretched arms with the "xo".

Upon hearing TV news queen Diane Sawyer uses "xo" so frequently that her staff panic when she omits it from memos, I'm now making an effort to rein in my exploitation of the vowel and consonant combo.

Even though the symbol "x" has been universally acknowledged to represent a kiss since the 1760s and Gossip Girl has disappeared from our small screens, the trademark "xo" continues to creep into our corporate lives and encroach on what is deemed acceptable social etiquette and professionalism.

"At first, its virtual identity was clear: a pithy farewell, sweeter than 'See you later', less personal than 'Love','' Jessica Bennett and Rachel Simmons wrote in a recent article for The Atlantic about the feminisation of the workplace. ''Men could 'xo' their wives. Girlfriends could 'xo' girlfriends. It was a digital kiss - meant, of course, for somebody you'd actually kiss. But soon enough, nonstop emails, IMs and tweets began to dilute its intimacy factor," they wrote.

The article highlights research that was conducted by Stanford University which tracked the use of "xo" in social media. The unsurprising results showed that "xo" is a female thing. According to a study of Twitter users, 11 per cent of women "xo" in tweets compared to 2.5 per cent of male tweeters.

Closer to home though and Australians, especially Gen Yer's such as myself who are existing online 24/7, are constantly smothered in smooches and bear hugs.

This sappy shift in syntax is only a recent phenomenon - one that appears to be driven predominantly by women in the workplace, according to linguists and business experts, and judging by the amount of "xo's" I exchange with lifestyle brand publicists on a daily basis - I trust the expert opinion on this one. 

"In Australia in the '70s, people just didn't shake hands with women,'' Curtin Business School associate professor Dr Carmela Briguglio says. ''It just wasn't done, so that's a fairly recent change. However we are not stereotypically one way forever, we are constantly changing and so is our language," she says.

"If I was to walk into a business meeting 20 years ago, I would never have offered my hand to anyone, whereas men always shook each other's hands. I cannot believe the amount of kissing and hugging that goes on now, it's very 'un-Aussie' of us if you look back on the patterns from the past few years.

"If you go back in recent history, Aussies hardly ever hugged and women did not shake anybody's hand. People forget that culture and language change constantly and perhaps with new media they are changing faster than they ever did."

Dr Briguglio suggests that in order to communicate effectively in a world that is becoming increasingly global and multicultural, a general rule of thumb should include, "no kisses for clients or colleagues. Save them for people you know and know very well."

However I, too, suffer like Sawyer's minions, especially when it comes to texts from those who have a place in my heart. The amount of anxiety caused by receiving a text from a suitor that concludes with a full stop instead of an "x" is more emotionally draining than watching a Les Misérables - The Notebook double feature.

So, readers, are you a fan of the ''xo'' sign off, or are you all business when it comes to communicating? How many "x's" should you send your sweetheart in modern times?

82 comments so far

  • If you never use them then nobody will expect you to. I generally don't use them because I would

    I tend to often sign off with a tilde though (yes I'm either misusing the symbol or helping it evolve) with my friends when I'm being light hearted about something but this is something reserved for my friends as there is no point in confusing everyone else.

    Commenter
    Jill
    Location
    psychedelia
    Date and time
    February 21, 2013, 8:43AM
    • I give no hugs

      Just kisses

      x

      Commenter
      AT
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      February 21, 2013, 4:38PM
  • I've noticed the increased use, but would only give an xoxoxo to my darling wife.

    Commenter
    Rob
    Location
    Country NSW
    Date and time
    February 21, 2013, 9:07AM
    • and all the other fairfax readers who just saw your comment...

      x

      Commenter
      AT
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      February 21, 2013, 4:40PM
  • I'm astounded that anyone would use "xo" in a business/corporate setting. I have enough trouble with people using 'LOL' and smiley faces in work emails. (I've never used LOL, not even on Twitter or FB. I'm a 'hehe' person).

    I remember once before my boyfriend and I got together, but after I started to LIKE like him, he sent me a happy new year message with "xo" at the end. He'd never ended a text message that way before, and I obsessed over whether this meant that he liked me as more than a friend too, or whether it was just the done thing for that kind of 'special occasion' text. I wanted to reciprocate in my reply, but it didn't seem to fit with what I'd written and looked awkward. . Of course, after I'd hit send I worried that he would think that I didn't like him!

    So much analyisng over a couple of little letters!

    Commenter
    JEM
    Location
    Melb
    Date and time
    February 21, 2013, 9:47AM
    • I ignor (don't even read) any email at work that includes ANY "text talk". I figure if it's important, it would be written properly. No one communicates with me that way any more so if it is agroup email, everybody gets a properly written one.
      As for expressing my feelings for someone - face to face is the only sincere way because it takes courage.

      Commenter
      No ambiguity
      Date and time
      February 21, 2013, 10:08AM
    • I ignore people who don't spell ignore properly... I figure if it's important, it would be written properly

      Commenter
      Lex
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      February 21, 2013, 10:57AM
    • @Lex. If it is written correctly, there would be a full stop a the end of a sentence. Typo - mine too. Score: 1 all.

      Commenter
      No ambiguity
      Date and time
      February 21, 2013, 12:26PM
    • No ambiguity and Lex, like me, I think you guys are fighting a losing battle. I've been in many environments that are considered 'professional', but many of its workers either don't care or are confused over simple spelling and punctuation. The main culprit is the errant apostrophe in plurals; eg. DVD's instead of DVDs, or the 80's instead of the 80s. The situation is worsening as I see these errors occurring regularly on signs, advertising, as well as various other print media.

      Commenter
      lm
      Location
      Sydney CBD
      Date and time
      February 21, 2013, 2:43PM
    • Dear no ambiguity - I ignore any communications at work that uses capital letters for emphasis. Words like "ANY".

      When you do that you sending people a message that you think they are thick and you are better than them. Oh goodness thats exactly what no ambiguity does think!

      Commenter
      I can read. Thanks
      Date and time
      February 21, 2013, 4:14PM

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