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In a Letter, what does P.S. Mean?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated May 23, 2024
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In a letter, as in any written communication, “P.S.” stands for the Latin phrase post scriptum which means “after writing.” It is meant to reflect the fact that the text marked with the initials was added after the other material had already been written, often as an afterthought; as such, it typically occurs at the very end of the letter, usually below the signature. In some cases, a “P.P.S.” may appear below that, and potentially one could create a cascade of “P.P.P.S.'s” and “P.P.P.P.S.'s” — although this is generally viewed as bad form.

Afterthoughts

There are a number of reasons a letter writer might add a post scriptum, known more commonly in English as a postscript. Most of the time, people include one when they remember something right before mailing a letter and don’t want to wait to include it in a future communication. For example, someone might remember that his or her address has changed, and add “P.S. My new address is...” so that the reader will be alerted to the fact that the old address is no longer valid, in case he or she misses the change in the return address section of the envelope.

Adding a Personal Touch

A postscript can also be included to add a more informal touch to a formal communication, as in “P.S. George and the kids say hello,” reminding the reader of a personal connection to the writer. Formal letters may also use the postscript as a tool to provide more information about the context of the letter, or to offer a softer, more personalized ending. Postscripts are occasionally used in pre-printed letters to add a personal note to a form response.

One place where this technique is relatively rare is in formal business communications. Business correspondence is usually carefully composed without any unnecessary additions; information that is forgotten usually requires a complete re-write. Personal notes or caveats are typically out of place in these contexts.

As a Vehicle for External Comments

In some cases, a postscript may also be used to add a comment to a written document, as in the case of a writer who wants to expand upon something in a letter without interfering with the larger flow. They are often included in books for much the same reason — often to allow writers to thank people who have contributed to the work. Acknowledgments might be cumbersome in other areas of the book. Authors might also use the device to provide additional information, such as lists of resources readers might be interested in.

Cautions and Overuse Concerns

It is not uncommon to see P.S. written as “PS,” and both terms are generally viewed as stylistically acceptable. Writers should be careful about employing the postscript in excess or with frequency, however. It can be a highly useful and sometimes charming writing tool, but can become irritating if its use becomes a habit. Especially when composing formal correspondence, using one can devalue the seriousness of the letter.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Language & Humanities researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By DylanB — On Feb 23, 2013

@JackWhack – It would be convenient, but think about how it would sound to the person receiving it. To me, writing “P.S.” is basically like saying, “Oh, yeah...”

It implies that you forgot something. In business, forgetting things is looked down upon. Your boss doesn't want his forgetfulness brought to the recipient's attention, so he has you rewrite the whole letter.

By JackWhack — On Feb 22, 2013

It's a shame we can't just stick one of these at the end of a business letter. I hate having to redo the whole thing, and my boss forgets stuff often!

By kylee07drg — On Feb 22, 2013

I have seen postscripts on emails at work before, and even though they are business related, the postscripts are usually more informal. This is the section where a coworker or associate might invite me out to coffee or something. I look forward to the postscripts, because they add a personal touch to a formal email.

By lighth0se33 — On Feb 21, 2013

My pastor has me type up a monthly newsletter, and he sends it out to people he knows in other states. Sometimes, it includes information about what has been going on in his family or the church, but more often than not, it is a short sermon or anecdote intended to make the person think.

He always includes a “P.S.” at the end of the newsletter, and he often uses this spot to write something humorous. He likes to inject humor into his messages, so everyone expects this from him.

I think that if the people were to receive a newsletter without a “P.S.,” they might worry that something was wrong! It has become a vital part of the letter.

By anon138479 — On Jan 01, 2011

Whoever it is who has explained it has done well. great job.

By anon135467 — On Dec 18, 2010

thanks a lot! that's all the info i need!

By anon128772 — On Nov 20, 2010

this was really good! P.S. it really helped for my letter.

By anon102643 — On Aug 09, 2010

Good explanation!

By anon98483 — On Jul 23, 2010

It was explained so well in detail.

Good job. --Piyush

By anon92083 — On Jun 25, 2010

thank you wiseGEEK. the best answer in details that I could get.

By anon84998 — On May 18, 2010

thank you very much, the complete answer is here finally!

By anon82354 — On May 05, 2010

Thank you. -Vinod

By anon78045 — On Apr 16, 2010

Thanks for helping me understand p.s.

By anon73898 — On Mar 29, 2010

Awesome. Wisegeek

By anon70706 — On Mar 15, 2010

the best possible answer i could get, and explained in detail. Very helpful. thanks.

By milagros — On Aug 07, 2009

Another way to look at it is: "and by the way", here is some additional information.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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