In a study by the email app Boomerang, emails ending with a variation of “thank you” got significantly more responses than those with other popular signoffs (Getty Images/hero Images)
Email signoffs: they’re just a few words, but what a difference they can make when you’re trying to put your best foot forward in a business context. You don’t want to sound too breezy, yet you don’t want to be too aloof and brisk, either.
But how to choose a closing that hits just the right note? Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. As Karen Hertzberg, an author with Grammarly, points out in a blog: “What works for a friend or close colleague won’t work in a strictly professional correspondence with a distant acquaintance or someone you’ve never met before.”
That said, here are some tips that should help you get it right.
1) INCLUDE A CLOSING
As Simcha Lazarus explains in the blog article, Email signoff: the definitive guide, “Ending an email without a signoff is like walking away from someone at the end of a conversation without saying goodbye. It doesn’t leave a good impression.”
And you should include more than your name: As Lazarus explains, “Simply ending an email with your name can be OK when exchanging quick messages with colleagues but in any other situation it will likely be seen as cold and abrupt.”
Will Schwalbe, one of the authors of SEND: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do it Better, has a similar take: “While it’s absolutely fine as a chain progresses, it’s nice to end the first volley with a sign off.” [See Every email should end with contact info, expert says]
2) DON’T GET TOO CASUAL
Signoffs such as “see ya later,” “love” or “XOXO” are all too unprofessional for business purposes. As Lazarus says, you should save XOXO “for emailing good friends, or your mother.” Also to be avoided are acronyms such as TTYL ( “talk to you later”) or TAFN ( “that's all for now”), which are confusing.
3) SAVE THE FORMALITIES—MOST OF THE TIME
There are a few holdovers from the golden age of letter-writing that just sound musty in an email. These include “yours/yours truly” and “sincerely”—although, as Lazarus points out, “sincerely” might be appropriate for a cover letter or when sending a formal letter to a superior or government official. Similarly, “respectfully” and its variants are used in the military and might also work when emailing government officials and clergy.
4) SAY “CHEERS”—ONLY IF YOU CAN CARRY IT OFF
“Cheers” is one of those salutations that leaves many people muddled. As Lazarus says, “I like the cheerful vibe of this signoff though I personally don’t think I could pull it off.” Schwalbe agrees: “Would you say it to people in person? If so, go for it. If not, reserve it for the British.”
5) DON’T FRIGHTEN YOUR RECIPIENT
For most experts, “take care” is anxiety-producing and should be avoided. As Schwalbe says, “I feel this is akin to ‘safe travels,’ albeit with a slightly medical connotation.” Lazarus echoes that thought: “This signoff sounds a bit too much like a warning to me—‘Take care?’ Do you know something that I don’t?—and if used at all, it should be reserved for personal emails.”
6) LEAVE “BEST” FOR LAST (CHOICE)
Although “best” is still one of the most commonly used signoffs, Lazarus and other experts think it is a rather flavourless way to end an email. Also, in a study by the email app Boomerang that looked at closings in more than 350,000 email threads, “best” had the lowest average response rate when compared with other email signoffs that appeared 1,000-plus times.
7) MAKE “BEST” BETTER
While a simple “best” is too dull, “all the best” is a considerable improvement. As Lazarus notes, it’s “breezy but not too casual for professional emails, and “generally a good choice.” And Grammarly’s Hertzberg thinks “best wishes” can also be a safe bet—although she thinks you should “be aware of its greeting-card vibe and use it only when it fits well with the tone of your email.”
8) CONSIDER REPLACING “BEST” WITH “REGARDS”
“Regards” generally sits well with most people. USA Today’s Steven Petrow actually considers it the new “best.” As he explains, “It’s the all-purpose, non-specific closer. But no one will give you any points for creativity, so if that matters to you, don’t use it.” As for “best regards,” Lazarus says it is the signoff he uses the most frequently in his professional correspondence. “It’s slightly formal but also has a friendly feel to it. I think it works well with almost any email.”
9) BE THANKFUL
Many experts think “thank you” and its variants should be used only when you are actually thanking someone for something. Nevertheless, these closings are actually incredibly popular in practice. And there might be some method behind it: in the Boomerang study, emails ending with a variation of “thank you” got significantly more responses than those with other popular signoffs.
“Thanks in advance” correlated with the highest response rate (65.7 per cent), followed by a simple “thanks” (63 per cent) and “thank you” (57.9 per cent). Still, Lazarus suggests “thanks” might sound terse to some people; he says attaching an exclamation point to the end can make it sound a bit more sincere, as can adding “so much.” Another warmer alternative is “Many thanks.”
MANAGE YOUR EMAIL BETTER
Check out these resources from CPA Canada: 5 ways to get your email under control right now, Want to be a better boss? Stop checking email and Keep your emails between you and your client.