P.S. is the short version of the latin phrase Post Scriptum. It is used at the end of a HAND WRITTEN letter to include something that was forgotten in the text of the letter.

Now I may be mistaken, I often am, but as far as I understand when one is writing an e-mail it is rather easy to go into the body of the e-mail and include something that one forgot. This practice would seem to eliminate the need for the P.S. part of a HAND WRITTEN letter. The nature of a HAND WRITTEN letter would dictate that it is necessary to use P.S. to include something you forgot because otherwise you would have to start over. I don't like to assume that the general public is overly intelligent but it would seem that these distinctions would be rather obvious.
The most obvious reason to use a P.S. in an e-mail is to convey a message which has only tangential relevance to the rest of the letter.


Dear Foo, I have been reading the draft you sent me of the latest documentation for product X. blah blah blah



PS: Going to the pub this evening?
Why do i? Well. Sometimes when i write an email, i write it with a one-draft aesthetic, much as i might if i hand-wrote it, but faster. I'll go back to correct errors, but often i find the flow of ideas or thoughts makes something that would be better off not tampered with, even if i have something to add.

P.S.s end up being the flotsam of thought, parenthetical not to any particular bit of the message proper but to the communication itself. It's the odds-n-ends bin, and also conveys a bit of breathless last-minute addition: P.S. and P.S.S.! and P.S.S.S.!!! (though, yes, if you're following the latin, it ought to be P.P.S., P.P.P.S. &c., see below on fluency.) P.S.s can also be little unformed thought-bits, embryonic, that wouldn't survive exposure as whole paragraphs. You wouldn't want to submit them to that! So they're slung safely under the protective belly of the email itself.

P.S. is a convention, like saying bless you when someone sneezes, or wearing a tie. Or even saying "Dear so-and-so" when they are in actuality not dear to you at all! Like any convention, it can be played with; this is part of the beauty of a fluid system of signs. Knowing its original intent, as you do, can make you a more fluent and facile player in this system, if it does not make you more rigid.

Oh, and P.S.s are also good for parting shots.

Another possible reason for writing a postscript in an e-mail is if, for some reason, you're using the old Unix mail program, or telnetting directly to the SMTP port (not much difference there) to send your e-mail. In this case editing previously-entered text is limited to erasing and retyping text on the current line of input.

Reasons to insist on using a P.S. in an e-mail?

1) Because the individual you are writing to is a newbie in the world of computing, and more comfortable with the standard routine of how snailmail letters are organized. Adding a P.S. to an email would make such a newcomer feel more at home.

2) Because the individual you are writing to is a seasoned veteran of computing and the Internet, and you know adding a P.S. to an email will probably annoy the crap out of said vet, which is the response for which you happen to be aiming.

And as yet another example, PS is very good at indicating the passage of time in the composition of a message. As in--

Dear Joe,

I think that the databases are hosed, the webservers are down, and the customer service reps have just gone on strike.


ps: just got a phone call from tim, webservers aren't all the way down.

pps: before i hit send tim called back. the webservers are hosed.

Before you say that the ps's should be dropped, consider that they provide other information than just the words. For one thing, they communicate that the people in the above situation are currently rushed and unsure of what is going on--something that would not have been communicated without them.

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