For the past eight or so years, I’ve signed almost every email with an xoxo—to female and male friends, to strangers, to colleagues, to accountants, to lawyers, to people who are more or less my bosses. I can’t even help myself anymore; it has become totally automatic.
“I’m always afraid that I’m being unprofessional, yet I continue to sign all my e-mails ‘xoxo,’ ” Lena Dunham joked to the New York Times Magazine earlier this year.
A recent Atlantic article examined the phenomenon, which they say is feminizing the workplace: “‘I feel like xo has taken on its own kind of life,’ says Karli Kasonik, a Washington-based consultant. ‘I do it, most women I know do it,’ says Asie Mohtarez, a writer and social-media editor, noting that she prefers a single x to the full xo. ‘In my field, you almost have to use it,’ says Kristin Esposito, a yoga instructor in New York.”
Funnily enough, xoxo-ing has become such a habit that I feel kind of mean when I don’t include it. “There’s the matter of women’s tonal antennae, which pick up on even the smallest shifts,” continues the Atlantic article. “‘In e‑mail, ending a command with a period can feel brusque,’ says Anne Trubek, a professor of rhetoric at Oberlin College…In Diane Sawyer’s newsroom, staffers say, the anchor uses xo so frequently that its omission can spark panic.”
And it’s not just for women. My deep-voiced, bearded husband has started picking it up, and my dad’s classic sign-off is now a bold “xxOOO.” (I think those are bear hugs.)
After all, xoxo doesn’t actually mean “kiss” anymore (at least, I’m not planning to kiss my accountant, sweet as he is). It’s similar to “how the epistolary greeting Dear changed over time, originally just for addressing loved ones but eventually becoming neutral,” says Ben Zimmer, a linguist and lexicologist, in the article.
So, is xoxo unprofessional or a new industry standard? “I refuse to feel any shame for this widespread woman-trait,” Caitlin Moran, the British feminist and author of How to Be a Woman, told the Atlantic. “Statistics show we’re slowly taking over the world, and I’m happy for us to do it one xxx e‑mail at a time.”
What do you think? I’d love to hear… xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo