SWAK, Part I — The Legal Consequences of Sealing Something

Pucker Up!

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d do a two-part article on an acronym near and dear to our hearts…


We’ve all heard the acronym SWAK before. But what does it mean? If you work for Fed Ex, you might say, “Scan, Weigh, and Key.” If you’re the outdoorsy type, you might say, “Swedish Army Knife.” But for most of us, SWAK means, “Sealed With A Kiss.” The phrase evokes immediate images of lips and letters, lovers and lipstick. But can you really seal a letter with a kiss? What is a ‘seal’ anyway?

A seal is physical evidence of authenticity. Historically, seals were made of poured wax, which was then embossed with a mark or symbol. Back before OfficeMax started selling self-adhesive envelopes, wax seals were used to seal letters. Their use assured recipients that the contents of the letter were legitimate — that the words within had neither been tampered with, nor seen by prying eyes.

Legal contracts are often signed ‘under seal,’ meaning that the signer has affixed his, her, or its (in the case of corporations) seal next to the signer’s signature. Historically, this practice meant that the contract was less vulnerable to legal attack. Seals were used as presumptive evidence that certain contractual formalities had been met. Today, statutory reform has largely done away with the need for seals for such purposes in many jurisdictions, but one legal consequence may remain. In some jurisdictions, signing a contract under seal may lengthen a contract’s period of enforceability. For example, an ordinary contract may only have a three-year statute of limitations, whereas a contract signed under seal might have a twelve-year statute of limitations. If you are the one seeking to enforce, the seal can be a good thing.

So how exactly do you seal a contract or letter?

Yesteryear’s wax seals may look weighty and impressive, but they are highly impractical. Open flames and signet rings are tools of the past. Today’s seals are often made with paper embossers (hole-punch type devices that are custom-made), inked stampers, gold foil stickers, and — the easiest method — by simply adding the word “SEAL” to a signature line.

As for sealing modern-day letters, the aforementioned self-adhesive envelopes should be the choice for any professional correspondence. But for all those love letters? I say pucker up and experiment. From Lipstick Queen’s Sinner Red to MAC’s Frost Angel, your lipstick choices are endless…

Have you ever sent a letter sealed with a kiss? If so, I want to hear about it! Tell me about your love letters, your favorite shade of lipstick, or any other fun ways you’ve signed your name to things. 

Published by

Jill Archer

Jill Archer is the author of the Noon Onyx series, genre-bending fantasy novels including DARK LIGHT OF DAY, FIERY EDGE OF STEEL, WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE, and POCKET FULL OF TINDER.

4 thoughts on “SWAK, Part I — The Legal Consequences of Sealing Something

  1. Hey Jill! The last time I SWAKed was so long ago, I’ve forgotten the details. And the boy! LOL! Billy? Adam? Patrick? Inquiring minds can’t recall…A couple of years ago I became a Notary Public, so I seal stuff all the time. The geek in me lurves my embosser.

    1. Ha! Love it. I used to be a Notary Public too. Which makes me wonder where my old embosser went. Likely rattling around in the back of some old desk drawer… or my basement.

  2. I’m with Keely. The last time I puckered up to Seal with a Kiss was eons ago when my HS Sweetheart and I became geographically challenged due to the colleges we selected. I also used to mist my envelopes with my “signature” scent at that time — Shalimar.

    Why Shalimar? Because it was the only decent perfume I owned.

    Yup. Been there with the notary seal. But, the favorite one around our house now is one purchased for my husband at Christmas. It’s an embosser that imprints “From the Library of J.L. Richard” on the first pages of his hard-back books. He’s so anal about them, I’m surprised he doesn’t have little library check-out cards in the back for when he loans them.

    Thanks for visiting my blog, Jill. I know Brinda’s awesome post on TWITTER PARTIES got you there, and I’m glad. That’s how I found you! Woot!

    And, yes, I’m still grumbling about your choice of Elegant Grunge for your WP theme. If my site changes, remember…

    Imitation is the SINCEREST form of compliment. Just saying…

    1. Hi Gloria– Loved your Shalimar story. That’s great! 😀 Hey, at least your husband reads. Mine, not so much (although, of course, he can ;-)). Looking forward to following you through WP!

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