How can you use just two letters — the first to the right of your keyboard, and the second on the left — to catch someone’s attention or really drive your message home? With this guide, writing the perfect post scriptum messages will be easy!
Post Scriptum (PS) Basics
We’re all familiar with that little PS sometimes tacked onto the end of a message, but what does it really mean? PS — or P.S., depending on the style guide the author is using — is an abbreviation for the Latin “post scriptum”. Also sometimes spelled “postscriptum” without the space, PS simply means “written after”. (“Post” means “after”, while “scribere” is “to write”.)
Over time, people started to Anglicize the old “post scriptum” into “postscript”. Today, “postscript”, “postscriptum”, and “post scriptum” are all correct.
Like many other intriguing features of modern language, this one was born from necessity. The first recorded use of the PS dates back, according to Merriam-Webster, to the year 1551. In the 16th century, personal letters were written by hand and paper was sufficiently scarce and expensive to treasure it.
If it dawned on you that you had something to add after you were already done writing and signing your letter, then, you had little choice but to add it to the bottom. Thus, the PS emerged.
Soon enough, this special section — which should always be placed at the very end of a message, after your signature — turned into a space not just for afterthoughts, but one to share something particularly intimate, funny, or even secretive.
Handwritten letters are now a rarity, but the PS persists because it remains powerful. You’re bound to have used PS notes already, but with the right mindset, you can turn a postscript intro a true art form!
Examples of Powerful PS Messages
Still not quite sure how to put the PS to use yourself? While you can ultimately always make any PS entirely your own, and there are no hard-and-fast rules, these famous examples might inspire you to take your own writing to the next level.
PS in Letters
In writing to the editor of The New Yorker, Harold Ross, in 1944, famous author EB White (who penned, among other works, Charlotte’s Web) said:
Thanks for the Harper advert. from your valued magazine. I would have seen it anyway, but was glad to get it hot from your stapling department. . . .
I would have changed publishers fifteen years ago, only I don't know how you change publishers. The first half of my life I didn't know how babies came, and now, in my declining years, I don't know how you change publishers. I guess I will always be in some sort of quandary.
P.S. The de-stapling machine works better than I would have believed possible.”
This letter demonstrates perfectly how the PS can be used sarcastically with great effect. However, in typed or even handwritten letters, you can choose to use the PS in any way you like.
Some examples might include:
- In a letter to a granddaughter who lives far away, you could write “PS: You were always a picky eater and you looked so thin in the picture you sent. Please make sure to eat enough!”
- In a somewhat disparaging letter to your neighbors, who always seem to make too much noise, you could add “PS: I’ve really valued your company over the years and I really don’t want to be a pain! I hope we can find a way to get along!”, which should soften the sting.
PS in Emails
Because emails are a relatively new invention and they’re private in nature, we don’t have any good famous examples to offer. You, however, can put the good old PS to great use in almost any email.
Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur hoping to make connections or just connecting with a relative you haven’t spoken to in a while, your PS message can be as uniquely creative as you are:
- “PS: Despite the rain, I really did have a great time! Let’s do it again sometime soon!”
- “PS: You haven’t changed a bit. Seeing you again brought me right back!”
- “PS: You still haven’t sent me that data you promised a week ago. Did you forget?”
PS in Chat
Although online chat can, in many cases, be edited just like emails, we now find ourselves in a fast-paced world where we feel compelled to answer as soon as possible. In many ways, this brings us right back to the days of penning letters by hand — when we forget something, we might feel compelled to add a PS.
We can also choose to add a PS intentionally, of course!
How? Here are some ideas:
- “PS: I’ll be home late. Don’t forget to feed the cat!”
- “PS: Looking back, I realize that sounded quite sarcastic. Pinky swear I didn’t mean it that way!”
- “PS: Let me know if you need anything. For real!”
- “PS: Can’t wait to see you next week!”
- “PS: Make sure to check out the link!”
7 Best Ways to Use PS
The PS might have emerged in before the Industrial Revolution simply to help people avoid scrapping an already-written letter to add one thought, but in the digital age, it’s gained a whole new purpose. Drawing attention to a particular sentence requires an “eye magnet” — a visual break your readers’ eyes will naturally be fascinated by.
Thought the PS was just an afterthought? Think again! Here’s how you can maximize the humble postscript’s potential.
- CTA (Call-to-Action)
Books like Jay Conrad Levinson’s Guerrilla Marketing: Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits From Your Small Business and the Nonprofit Kit for Dummies have famously pointed out that most people don’t read marketing materials from top to bottom.
After skimming the introduction, they tend to skip right to the end — where they’ll read the final sentence or short paragraph you pen. Since your CTA is the one thing you truly want your audience to pay full attention to, especially in email marketing, an artfully-crafted PS is one of the best places to put it.
- Convey Urgency
Did you already get across everything you needed to in the main body of your text? Emphasizing how urgent a task is, or how little time your reader has before an offer expires, in a PS will leave them with a final impression that spurs them on to follow up as soon as possible.
Whether you’re marketing a product or service, or you’re fundraising for a charity, a PS is also an effective way to advertise the ways in which your company or nonprofit has already helped others. There are few other natural places to include a testimonial, and if you don’t want it to get lost in a sea of facts, the post scriptum is a strong choice.
- Emphasize a Thought
You can also use your PS to emphasize an important thought or point you have already addressed in your main text. In this case, you won’t want to simply repeat your point, but to add a little bit extra to show your readers just how important your message was.
- Add Charm
In personal correspondence — including emails, and even social media messages — you can use a postscript to add a funny, thoughtful, or sweet touch that leaves your reader giggling, smiling, or impressed.
- Parting Sentiments
People turned to the PS to share their most intimate thoughts almost as soon as postscripts emerged as a practice, and they remain valuable in this context today. Whether you’ve just written a child who’s away at college a sweet letter, but want to add a stern warning that they should get their grades up, or you want to let your long-lost friend know just how much you loved seeing them again, the PS is the perfect space.
Sometimes, a PS is used to share thoughts you’re almost too embarrassed to write. This makes the PS almost clandestine, and rather playful, very much adding to its appeal.
- Deliver Rhetorical Thunder
Are you the kind of person who always needs to have the last word — not just proverbially, but also quite literally? The PS is the perfect way to make sure that you get your way. Whether you’re engaging in passive-aggressive email communications with coworkers or trying to let your son know exactly what you thought of his birthday message to you, your PS can sting more than any other part of your correspondence.
What is the correct way of writing PS?
If you’re using a style guide, stick to that. It’ll either be “PS” (no periods anywhere) or “P.S.” (each letter is followed by a period), so if you’re not using a style guide, decide on one or the other and be consistent about it.
If you go with “PS”, you’ll also write “USA”, and if you use “P.S.”, you should also choose “U.S.A.”. Consistency matters in writing. The overall trend, however, is to simplify things. If it doubt, skip the periods.
“P.S”, without the final period, is always incorrect, as is “Ps” or “ps”.
When to use PS in an email?
In this day and age, you’ll use PS in an email when you want to make sure to catch your reader’s eye. This can be as useful in promotional emails as it is in personal communications.
Why is PS important in email marketing?
PS messages are a great tool for email marketers for the simple reason that your audience is likely to skip right to the end once they’ve read your subject line and greeting. If you’ve got something incredibly important to say, whether it’s about a limited-time offer or a core message that shouldn’t be missed, a PS is a great place to put it.
PS: We hope you’ve enjoyed this guide, and you’re ready to take your postscripts to the next level. Never feel limited by existing guides, but allow your full creativity to shine!