real life

Why are we letting one letter of the alphabet rule our professional lives?

“If I don’t get a kiss at the end of an email from my boss, I feel like I’ve done something wrong.”

Word for word, that’s what the women sitting next to me just said. She’s smart, strong, and very good at what she does. But her sense of professional confidence can be undone that easily – with the absence of one little letter.


It’s happened before. When I worked at a glossy women’s magazine, I learned very quickly that an “xxx” at the end of emails was absolutely compulsory. Without it, my writers thought something was up. They’d rap on my door and ask if everything was OK. They’d over-compensate with eight or nine kisses in their reply emails.

In short, our entire professional relationship relied on the presence of a single letter of the alphabet.


It sounds completely, utterly mad. And that’s because it is.

The kiss signature is completely out of control. With friends, family, and lovers – kiss away. Put a thousand kisses in your personal messages, communicate exclusively in kisses, whatever you want. But in professional emails? Come ON.

At work? NO.

It’s inappropriate, unprofessional, and ambiguous. Surely it only happens in all-female offices — the idea of signing off with an ‘x’ to a male colleague in the very masculine office I used to work in takes my breath away with hypothetical embarrassment. So if we wouldn’t SMS or email a kiss to a male colleague, why do we insist on showering our female colleagues in coded kisses? And more importantly, why are we allowing our whole sense of professional self-esteem rest of the presence of an X?

Look. I’m a serial SMS-kiss offender. Emails to my boss, an SMS to a TV producer, tweets to other journalists – they all get an X. It’s a really weirdly flirtatious thing to do… But I can’t stop. Not now. Not yet. Not when that single letter means so much to women. Not when it’s our agreed-upon shorthand for “everything’s cool between us” and without it, a perfectly wonderful colleague might think something’s gone down between us.

Together, we’ve got to put an end to this Gossip Girl sign-off madness. We’ve got to strip that tiny, entitled little letter of its importance. Women in the office don’t need to fake love and intimacy to function – we should be able to speak assertively to one another with full stops. We don’t need kisses to soften what we’ve got to say.

Here’s a new rule. Let’s write it on bathroom walls, tweet it, and get it tattooed to the underside of our eyelids. Because it comes down to this very simple question: Would you walk up and kiss your boss on the cheek?


Then don’t kiss them via correspondence. Just. Don’t.