What Is a Valediction?

N. Madison

A valediction is the act of saying goodbye. The word is often used to refer to a speech given to a graduating high school or college class, which says goodbye to the learning institution. A valediction also is written at the end of a letter, such as when a person writes "yours truly" before signing his or her name. Additionally, it is a simple farewell a person uses to say goodbye in ordinary conversations, including words such as "goodbye" and "so long."

Most business letters close with "Sincerely," and a signature.
Most business letters close with "Sincerely," and a signature.

When a person gives some parting words to say goodbye, he or she is giving a valediction. Some people may be most familiar with the use of this word as it pertains to giving speeches. For example, someone usually gives a valedictory speech at a high school or college graduation. The chance to give this speech is often viewed as an honor and is often given to a person who has performed very well during his or her years at the school. In such a case, the person who gives the speech is supposed to bid farewell to the educational institution and its staff on behalf of the graduating student body.

A high school valedictorian's speech is called a valediction.
A high school valedictorian's speech is called a valediction.

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People also use words of valediction in written documents. For example, the closing remark a person places before his signature is a valediction, and some common closing remarks include "yours truly," "sincerely yours" and "respectfully yours," among others. Some of the same closings may be used in emails, but they are often less formal. For example, a person may sometimes use a single-word valediction, such as "cheers," "blessings" or "regards," when saying goodbye in an email. Other times, no such wording is added prior to the person's name.

People also use valedictions in casual conversation. For example, when one person says "goodbye" to another, he has just given a valediction. There are many different ways a person may choose to say goodbye to another person, however. In addition to saying goodbye, a person could choose to say "farewell," "so long," "see you later," "see you soon" or any number of variations. People sometimes also use wording such as "have fun" or "don’t forget to write" as valedictions.

When it comes to spoken valedictions, the length of a person's closing remarks is often influenced by whether and how soon the parties involved expect to see each other again. Generally, a person will make his farewell short when saying goodbye to a friend or associate he expects to see again in the near future. His wording may prove lengthier when a person is moving away, ending a relationship or dying.

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