The Last Word on Referral Letter Etiquette

Dr Genevieve Yates



I received a letter from a thoracic surgeon that was signed off, “With love and truth”. This caught me off guard.

The letter was on a normal-looking letterhead. It started with the conventional “Thank you for referring Mrs X for an opinion regarding…”, and went on to describe the patient’s presenting problem and comorbidities. It described the investigations undertaken, the treatments recommended and the plan for follow-up.

All stock-standard stuff, until the valediction: “With love and truth, Dr Y.”

This started me thinking about the evolution of the complimentary close. When I was at high school (which wasn’t that long ago), valediction etiquette was drilled into us. We were taught that correspondence other than personal letters should be signed off ‘Yours faithfully’ to those with whom one is not personally acquainted, and ‘Yours sincerely’ to whom one is. Clear, simple rules.

Then email came along and blurred the…

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