The Proper Use of PS

Have you ever seen a letter signed with PS? Or perhaps you’ve heard of a song or movie with PS in the title. What does PS mean, and what is its proper use?

What Does PS mean?

PS is an abbreviation for postscript. Postscript comes from the Latin word postscriptum, which means “written after.” So, a postscript is an extra thought added to a letter that comes after the letter has been completed. (Rarely, a postscript can be added to other types of documents; however, it usually relates to letters). 

graphic answering the question "what does ps mean" by showing ps - postscriptum

Imagine that you were signing off on a letter, and you suddenly remembered something you wanted to include. That would be a perfect time to include a PS. Another way to use PS is for effect by adding a funny closing thought. It can be even be used as emphasis or to make a “So there!” kind of statement. Email marketers will sometimes use it in this manner, as we’ll go over below.

How to Properly Format PS

Do you capitalize PS or use periods between the letters? Is there any other punctuation needed with PS? Surprisingly, there are different opinions about these questions.

The Cambridge Dictionary lists PS as the proper format if you’re using British English.

PS Please remember the milk.

However, if you want to use the American English form, then the same dictionary says that the P.S. should include periods after each letter. But, The Chicago Manual of Style has a different opinion. It prefers PS, without any periods.

So, what should you do? Unfortunately, there is not a clear answer because PS doesn’t even show up in many style guides. The safest bet is to capitalize both the P and S. Then, you can choose whether or not to use periods after each letter. And you can leave off any trailing punctuation.

How to Use PS in Email

The original use of PS was to save someone from needing to rewrite a completed letter when they remembered something important to add. However, now much of our correspondence takes place via email. And in an email, you can easily go back and add something before sending it. So, why should we even use PS in an email at all?

PS can be used for effect. Having one idea separated from the rest is a great way to get it noticed. Many people will skim emails rather than read them word-for-word. However, they will usually notice what is at the beginning and end of a message. 

The proper place for a PS is after your signature. This is because it is an idea that comes after the letter is finished. 

Email marketers often include PS messages. Studies have shown that many people will skim a letter and read the PS first! So, email marketers will put a call to action or a special offer as a PS. It’s a great way to highlight their message in a place where it’s likely to be read.

Helpful Examples

We have examples of some famous people who used PS in their letters. John Lennon wrote a letter to a groupie who had been mean about Yoko Ono. After a letter extolling Yoko’s virtue, he ended it with a rude comment about the groupie. 

Another great example comes from Ronald Reagan. He wrote a letter to his son, Michael, right after his wedding. Ronald Reagan shared marriage advice with his son, then ended the letter with a PS reminding his son to say “I love you” at least once a day.

Richard Feynman was a 1965 Nobel Prize winner. Sadly, his wife died of tuberculosis. Over a year after her death, Richard wrote her a beautiful love letter, which was sealed until his death. His postscript asked for forgiveness for not mailing the letter because he didn’t know her new address. 

Therefore, you can see that PS can be used to emphasize a point, highlight helpful advice, and give a clever closing thought.

Related: I.e. or E.g. – Which one do you use? 


 

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