Cheers! How [Not] to Close an E-mail

It’s not uncommon for fingers to freeze over the keyboard at end of composing an e-mail. How to close? Yours? Best? Nothing at all?  Choosing the right close for an e-mail can be dicey, and the task seems to be a moving target—as technology evolves, so do the standards that guide its use, and e-mail is no exception.

The situation has become so fraught that two journalists, Will Schwalbe and David Shipley, have written a guidebook of sorts that discusses everything e-mail: Send: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do it Better. The authors have dissected the implications of various closings, and below are some important takeaways to share with business communication students.

Pay attention to relationships. If someone sends you an e-mail with a signoff of Sincerely yours, or Regards,and you reply with xxoo, you ignore the status of the relationship. Consider the level of formality you have with the sender, the length of time you’ve known the individual, and whether the relationship is professional or friend based. Those facts should dictate the type of close to choose.

Audience first. Schwalbe and Shipley’s “platinum rule” is to “Do unto others as you’d think they’d want you to do unto them.” In other words, consider how the e-mail can be the most helpful to its reader.

End with your preferred name. Do your reader the favor of using a signature with the name you prefer to be known by and called. For example, if your full name is Benjamin and you want people to call you Ben, use Ben in the e-mail signature.

Use the right signoff. Unless you’re British, Schwalbe and Shipley advise against using Cheersto avoid sounding affected. If you do not know the individual, use Best.

Below are some of the most common signoffs and what they signify.

Best Seamless due to its ubiquity.
Best wishes Safe choice to indicate friendliness and degree of formality.
Regards Staid, professional, unremarkable.
Sincerely Best for formal correspondence; can sound stodgy in casual e-mails.

Here are some signoffs to avoid.

Have a blessed day Keep anything with religious overtones out of professional communication.
Love, Hugs, xo Only for friends and loved ones.
[Name] or [Initial] Okay for brief, informal e-mails, but should be avoided with first time communications because it can be seen as cold.
[Nothing] As an email chain progresses, leaving no signature is acceptable but can be seen as impersonal.
Respectfully For formal letters, not e-mail. Ever.
Sent from my iPhone Common and explains brevity and typos. But also connotes not caring enough to change the default.
Thx or Rgds For tweens only. E-mail is not a messaging app.

The subtleties of closing an e-mail will evolve as the uses and contexts for e-mail change. Keep posted for updates.

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