WORKPLACE / JUN. 12, 2015
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Why You’re Signing Off Your Emails The Wrong Way

As if technology didn’t have enough pitfalls to snare us: another has been added to the list – how you sign off your emails. It’s a vexing, modern problem for those of us who wonder about how best to sign off emails to the various people with whom we communicate.

But wonder no more. It turns out that if you’re a kind regards”, “yours sincerely” “best” or “best wishes” person, then you’re way off track when it comes to this particular aspect of  email etiquette. Feeling confused?  Read on for some of the damning verdicts on some of the most common email sign offs.

See Also: 6 Email Etiquette Tips

"Best"

Confession:  until now, I was a ‘best’ person. I believed everyone used "best" to sign off an email – especially when emailing colleagues. So I’m mortified that the mighty Bloomberg has decreed that this seemingly crisp, innocuous word is actually the worst way to sign off emails. “It’s time to stop using best,” it declares. And if you’re wondering why, it’s because this innocent four-letter-word is “completely and unnecessarily ubiquitous”.

But Bloomberg isn’t the only one who disapproves of "best". A University of Pennsylvania study found that of all the sign offs presented to the study’s participants (all of them emailers), only 5 percent of them chose to use "best". "Best" was in fact… worst.

Some believe that use of the word "best" to sign off emails is part of the wider trend of ‘dumbing down’ that we see in digital communication. The omission of an accompanying noun, they feel, leaves the recipient waiting for something that does not arrive: best what, exactly? Others attach some pretty unforgiving adjectives to describe the use of "best": “pallid”, “benign” and “charmless” and  “a virus” are but a few.

"Sincerely"

“How sincere do you really feel about sending along those files?” Barbara Pachter, via Bloomberg

According to business etiquette coach Barbara Pachter, closing with "sincerely" is also wrong. Pachter believes this sign off is, in fact, insincere and should, therefore, be avoided.

"Cheers"

Pacher isn’t amused by this greeting either, although she does make allowances for its usage in the UK (phew!). Still, I can see the problem with “cheers”: what does it actually mean? Does it mean “hooray”? Are you literally cheering the recipient of your email? Or are you electronically e-clinking e-glasses with them? It’s none of those things, is it? “Cheers” is also pretty bland; it lacks creativity.

"Thanks"

Is there any sense of gratitude in your email? When there’s nothing in your email for which to be grateful, "thanks" becomes the email equivalent of someone staring at you for too long. Uncomfortable.

The options become increasingly problematic. “Best wishes” is more appropriate for a Christmas card; “yours” is as insincere as “yours sincerely”; “regards” or "kind regards" probably mean “I actually have no regard for you and am just being polite”; and “warmest regards”, according to Pachter, is “over effusive”.

So what’s the best way?

Don’t sign off your emails and leave a blank is the best way, according to Pachter. When e-mail first arrived in our offices in the early 1990s, it was used much in the same way as you would use a memo: “with no salutation and no closing”. Email is going back to its roots by functioning as an instant messenger, she believes. This negates the need for a sign off. Soon, Pachter says, email sign offs will be seen as “archaic”, and they will be regarded as an interruption to the flow of a conversation, “which is what email is”.

Perhaps we should take the lead of creative director of NPR and email etiquette guru Liz Danzico who ends all her emails with a period after the last sentence. If that’s what she is doing, then it is probably right.

See Also: How Your Email Address is Harming Your Career

How do you end your emails? Will you be making any changes? Add your comments below.

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