Cards from people who have all added an X after their name

If you get emails, text messages and letters from British people, you’ll notice many people add an ‘x’ at the end – but why?

The custom of having an ‘x’ at the end of a message started as a way to symbolise a kiss. It was used between lovers. However, these days it is more often used as a way of implying you are being friendly, not formal. This is especially important now that so much communication is written, rather than spoken.

This means the ‘x’ is a bit like an emoji. It is normal to use it between friends or close work colleagues as a way to make the tone of any written message more friendly. One ‘x’ is common. For really good friends, you might boost the level of friendliness and use ‘xx’ or ‘xxx’ – especially if you want to show you are being sympathetic about something. You might also sometimes see the letter ‘c’ at the end of a message – that is just someone typing the wrong letter by mistake!

To show how the ‘x’ is used, here are two messages:

  • ‘Thanks for the meal’: A text message like this can seem formal and cold to a British person. In fact, in some circumstances these words could even mean that the person was not happy about the meal (because of the British habit of sarcasm)
  • ‘Thanks for the meal x’: The ‘x’ at the end symbolises that there is warmth and emotion – the other person will understand that you really enjoyed it.

Because the ‘x’ can be seen to symbolise a kiss or friendship, be careful using it on messages where it might seem like you are flirting or being too friendly with someone you don’t know. For this reasons, it is unusual to see the ‘x’ in business emails, unless people know each other well.

NOTE: if you have a British girlfriend and she suddenly stops putting an x at the end of her messages to you, be warned: she is angry.

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