Email Etiquette: What Your Email Sign Off Says About You

One of the best feelings in the world has to be getting an urgent email on the weekend while I’m at the beach asking me to put out a fire drill ASAP. What’s even better is when that email is signed off with, “Best.” Best what?  “Best of luck trying to fix this, today, man. Not my problem anymore.”  Oh, the glorious email sign off. So few words, so much meaning.

One point of contention has divided people since the dawn of man (1): “What is the absolute best way to sign off my email?” There’s obviously no one answer to this question as it relies on with whom you’re corresponding. However, I recently polled the IMI family to get their feedback on commonly used sign offs and what they like and dislike. Here’s a look at some of the most popular email sign offs and what they mean.

 

 “Thank You” & “Thanks”

Are you really thanking me? Am I actually worthy of reading your correspondence? I am? Well then, whoa, you’re welcome! In all fairness, “thank you” does not refer to this, according to Scientific American. You see, in the olden days when senders would send hand-written correspondences, “Sincerely” and “Yours truly” were used to attest to the sender’s reliability. They were yours… sincerely and truly. Now, in the age of a million emails a second, we are saying “thank you” to recognize the burden we are putting on our recipient.

By including [“thank you”], we’re adhering to the overall social politeness formula, and demonstrating that we understand the rules of social engagement. So in that sense, we are sincere individuals.(source: Scientific American)

What a time to be alive.

Note: “Thanks in advance” is widely seen as an industry no-no. Try to avoid it, yeah? Unless looking and acting presumptuous is your thing.

Email Sign Off

“Best”

A very popular sign off, especially within the walls of IMI. “Best” is a ubiquitous sign off meant to evoke a very general sense of emotion… something to the effect of, “I’m not sure how to really say thanks as we don’t speak that often, so here are some slight well wishes. Hope that’s okay!”

Chris Gayomali of The Week describes “best” as follows: “Best” fits a wide variety of individual case uses, from acquaintances to strangers to bosses. I’d argue that its open-endedness is part of its appeal.

 

“Regards” & “Kind Regards”

“Regards” does one of two things for me depending on who is sending: It either evokes feelings of wanting to give the sender a hug or lose my temper in a fit of complete rage resulting with my fist through a screen… which may or may not have inspired this Yahoo! Answers thread.

“Regards” and “Kind Regards” seem to be more popular when dealing with a brief email only conveying something minor. “Hey Rick – I found your keys in the bathroom again. Regards, Jimmy.” Or picture this: A new coworker you’re trying to get a read on. You can’t be throwing around “thank you” and “cheers” yet.

How to Sign Off Your Email

“Cheers”

You sound like you’re from London!

I remember the first time I used “Cheers.” I thought I was so cool. It had this air of, Cheers, man! I sent you a blind email but, as you can tell from the sign off, I already consider us best buds. Because I don’t toast with my enemies. I’ll expect your response ASAP given we’re close friends now. That luster quickly wore off when I realized I was part of the 63,736,280 (rounded up) people to also use this sign off. WOMP WOMP.

Men’s grooming mag, Esquire puts “cheers” up there with pleated corduroys, square-toed shoes and fedoras, if that tells you anything. However, it’s widely accepted as a casual yet professional sign off to an email, according to Gigaom. Use it at your discretion. Writing to a client that expects your quirkiness and “it’ll get done, just trust me” attitude? Go for it. Writing to a new client for the first time without much background? Maybe refrain until you get a better feeling about it. Also, see “Regards.”

How Not to Sign Off Your Email

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The Takeaway

This list could literally go on for days: TTYL, XO, Talk Soon, Tally Ho, Aloha, No Sign Off, This Message Will Self Destruct If Not Properly Disposed Of… And I didn’t even touch on the asinine mobile signatures that now plague our email sign offs. Did I say asinine? I meant, “delightfully witty.” And plague? I meant, “bestow their hilarity on…”

Regardless, when it comes to email, here’s the rule I follow: No one sign off works across the board. Just like in Apples to Apples, you have to know your judge. Gauge with whom you’re sending an email and sign off accordingly. This is probably the most important thing to remember: NEVER ASSUME YOUR READER UNDERSTANDS YOUR TONE. Tonality fonts, other than CAPS LOCK = Screaming, Bold = “I’m calling this out for a reason,” and italics = cannot stress this enough, we’re left with words on a screen. And how you leave the taste of those words in someone’s mouth means all the difference.

Your majesty’s most bounden and devoted,

Will

 

(1) Most people in the agency world can’t remember life before the agency life. Therefore, this stat holds water.

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