- PS is an abbreviation of the Latin term postscriptum, which translates to written after.
- The postscript dates back to an age when letters were handwritten or typed out on a typewriter. Backspace was not an option.
- PS can appear in modern correspondence forms, such as instant messaging, emails, and social media chats.
- You can write the expression as PS or P.S.
- You can express multiple afterthoughts by using PPS, PPPS, and so on.
The abbreviation PS that you often see after the main body of a written correspondence indicates an afterthought or additional information.
No doubt you’ve seen a PS in action. Almost any kind of correspondence, from informal chats to direct marketing campaigns, use this small statement.
Once in a while, you might also hear people use it in verbal communication to convey an extraneous thought.
Even though we see and hear it often, what does PS mean? And, is it still relevant in today’s digital times?
What Does PS Mean?
The Origin of PS
The postscript dates back to a time when letters were either handwritten or pounded out on a typewriter. During that time, writers had no easy way to include information that they forgot to include in the body of their text without starting over or adding messy insertions. Thus, PS came into common usage.
By including a PS at the end of written correspondence, a letter writer created a place to add missing information or afterthoughts. It served an essential role in letters, minimizing time-consuming do-overs, and keeping correspondence neat and easy to read.
How is PS Used?
You may use PS to express an afterthought in written correspondence, such as a letter or an email. This may include ideas or information the writer forgot to include when initially composing the letter. The letters PS are typically placed immediately below the signature line of the correspondence. They’re followed immediately by the line or lines of text that a writer wishes to add.
I’m sorry we never got to have lunch before I left. My flight time was moved unexpectedly, and I had to grab a cab and go. I didn’t even have time to make a phone call. I hope you’ll forgive me.
P.S. You won the bet fair and square, and I still owe you a margarita!
How to Punctuate PS
One question that inevitably surrounds the use of PS is how to punctuate it correctly. Capitalizing the letters is out of question. However, there’s an on-going debate among grammarians on whether to use periods or not.
The bottom line is that there isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, and proper usage may vary depending on which style guide you follow. The Cambridge Dictionary does suggest that common usage differs depending on your country of origin. British English leans toward PS, while American English indicates a preference for P.S.
Another source of debate is trailing punctuation. Many believe the PS should be free from additional punctuation. Others typically include a colon to separate the letters from the statement or question that follows.
Going Digital: The PS Evolves
The coming of the digital age meant that the PS had to evolve or risk becoming obsolete. Documents can now be easily edited and reprinted, eliminating the need for a postscript.
But, the PS stayed alive. No longer just about missed information or afterthoughts, the PS became a way to add an extra touch to correspondence, including emails. Now, a postscript allows letter writers to accomplish several important things:
1. Emphasize a Subject
A PS allows a writer to reiterate an important point that’s already been addressed in the letter, creating emphasis where it’s most needed.
2. Add Charm to Correspondence
Postscripts can be used to add a smart, funny, or sweet touch to a letter. It can leave the reader with something to savor.
3. Add Information That’s not Relevant to the Main letter
Oftentimes, writers wish to include information that isn’t relevant to the original content of their correspondence. This off-topic information can be conveyed through a PS.
4. Be Argumentative
A postscript can let you effectively punctuate an argument with a final line or two.
5. Leave the Recipient With a Parting Thought
The PS is an effective tool for sharing a parting thought or takeaway.
6. To Express an Important Sentiment
It’s no coincidence that the postscript has long had a connection to love letters since it can be used to convey important sentiments.
7. Deliver a Call to Action
In direct mail campaigns, the PS is often used as a marketing strategy. It can be used to promote special offers, share testimonials, or deliver a call to action. In a world where people often skim large chunks of content, many will stop to read the PS.
What Does PS Mean in Chat?
The PS also makes regular appearances in social media chats (otherwise known as instant messaging). These fast-moving, real-time conversations can lead participants to forget to share information. The PS gives them a way to add it back in.
Just as PS represents an afterthought in traditional letter writing, it plays a similar role in this more modern form of communication.
It lets chatters throw out an idea or information after the main conversation has moved on. Even young users are now incorporating this traditional expression into chats on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and WhatsApp.
Joan: Excellent. See you then.
Cynthia: Sounds great.
Joan: P.S. Don’t forget to bring an appetizer. It’s a potluck!
When a Postscript Isn’t Enough
Let’s face it. Sometimes a single afterthought just isn’t enough. In fact, sometimes one afterthought leads to another, which leads to another, which leads to… Well, you get the idea.
Thankfully, you aren’t limited to a single postscript. Here’s how to share multiple afterthoughts in your correspondence:
- Place the letters PPS (aka post-post-scriptum) or PSS (aka post-super-scriptum) on the line below your initial PS to add a thought or information
- Place the letters PPPS (post-post-post-scriptum) below the PPS or PSS to add another line for afterthoughts.
- Continue adding PS to the front of the abbreviation as many times as necessary to express your thoughts.
A PS to our PS
Many letter writers believe that the postscript is quaint and should be obsolete, having disappeared alongside handwritten or typewritten letters. Others consider it as much a part of correspondence as a greeting, closing, or signature.
Regardless of popular opinion, the PS can still be found everywhere, from chat boxes and marketing emails to epistolary novels. By knowing how and when to use this traditional correspondence add-on, you can bring charm and emphasis to letters of any type.