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The Best Email Greetings and Sign-offs

The Best Email Greetings and Sign-offs

Allison Ford | DivineCaroline

October 25, 2010

On an infamous episode of Sex and the City, Samantha receives a present from her boyfriend, accompanied by a card signed, “Best, Richard.” Despite the kind gesture of the gift, she’s incensed at what she perceives to be a flippant and impersonal salutation. “Ugh,” says Miranda. “‘Best’ is the worst.”

Gulp. That’s how I’ve signed my emails for years. I thought it was friendly and upbeat, but still professional and warm. Was Samantha right … is “Best” really more of a brush-off than a sign-off?

With business communication—especially over email—salutations are important. When we speak face-to-face, body language and vocal intonations give our words context, but when we’re communicating electronically, we don’t have those luxuries, and it’s extremely easy for a harmless phrase to be interpreted as a rude gesture.

An inappropriate salutation can discredit even an otherwise acceptable email. The wrong salutation on a cover letter can be enough to disqualify you from a job, and in 2008, an accountant in Auckland, New Zealand was fired merely for having poor email etiquette. Most people know that some things, like emoticons or slang, are not acceptable in business emails, but few people give thought to their salutations. However, the way you open and close a message can say just as much to the reader as the email itself.

Super Sign-Offs

You’d never close an email to a client or your boss by saying “TGIF,” or “Hugs,” but there are some closing salutations that, even though they sound professional at first, can actually be perceived as too distant or unfriendly. Experts advise against using phrases like “Cordially,” which is a bit formal and better reserved for written communication. Likewise, “Regards” feels brusque and perfunctory. Although it’s currently fashionable to end emails with the phrase “Cheers,” it’s very informal and best used for friends and very friendly business relationships. “Yours truly” may sound sincere and heartfelt, but it conjures up the image of love letters, and is considered too emotional for professional correspondence.

It’s hard to go wrong by closing an email with the phrases “Kind regards,” or “Sincerely,” both of which are professional and warm without being overly personal. Samantha Jones should relax, because “Best” is also an expert-approved closing salutation, although turning it into “Best wishes” makes it even more foolproof. Another surefire solution is to simply close with the word “Thanks.”

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