42 Comments

Summary:

For us web workers, where our communication is digital more often than not, the way we sign our emails may (or may not) reveal certain clues about what we’re trying to accomplish. Let’s poke around at a few of the most common sign-offs/closings.

Look at how you signed your last email. Better yet, read it out loud. There’s a good chance you’ve signed off with something like “Best, Dominic,” or “Thank you, Maria,” or “Cheers, Tom,” or even just using your initials.

There are all sorts of ways we conclude emails. And for us web workers, where our communication is digital more often than not, the way we sign our emails may (or may not) reveal certain clues about what we’re trying to accomplish. Let’s poke around at a few of the most common sign-offs/closings.

Cheers

“Cheers” signals a sense of worldliness. (Tell me you don’t read it in a British accent and yearn for a pint of Bass.) This sign-off says “I’m casual, yet professional.” We could share beers at the bar, or we could do an angel VC deal. Or both. “Cheers” is designed to command a certain amount of respect while still maintaining a level of approachability. As such, we see it all the time. Yet one has to wonder if this sign-off is becoming (or has already become) too trendy. (Note: My “Cheers” analysis applies to U.S.-based emailers only. UK emailers, you have the final say on it, as for some reason, I just feel like it’s yours.)

Thanks

To me, “Thanks” says, “Just do what I’ve asked in the body of this email, and let’s leave it at that.” Even though that might not be the writer’s intention, it can come across as patronizing. (Note: To combat this, some people have taken a casual approach to “Thanks” with the abbreviated “Thx!” The verdict is still out on this tactic — particularly the use of the exclamation point.)

However, “Thanks” can, and should, be used in the early stages of an email relationship. It’s safe, it’s no-nonsense, and it rarely lends itself to interpretation. When in doubt, “Thanks,” in all its blandness, simply works.

Best

“Best” is strange. It basically means, “I wish good things for you.” That’s OK, but chances are that tone doesn’t mesh well with what you’re communicating in the body above. However, “Best” is innocuous enough that people don’t really digest it. It’s easily ignored, which leads me to speculate that it’s one of the highest-raking sign-offs that’s pre-loaded into email signatures, simply because it’s both neutral and positive at the same time. (I base this on no data whatsoever.) Ultimately, “Best” says that the sender’s professional-personal ratio is at about 9-to-1: the sender wants to keep things proper, while showing a little personal attention.

Take Care (and Other Ways to Say Goodbye)

Some people think of their sign-off as a goodbye. If you were leaving a meeting, you’d shake hands and say something like, “Take care, Elisa” or “Alright, Avi, I’ll see you tomorrow.” So a short-form goodbye can effectively give the communication a colloquial nature, one that’s conversational and fluid. But be careful. A phrase like “Take it easy” might not be formal enough for a given situation; use your judgment.

So what are “goodbye” sign-offs revealing? I think they show that the sender is striving for more verbal, personal communication. When used in the right situation, this type of closing can work well because it increases the friendliness of the email.

Nothing at All

Sometimes, we drop the closing entirely. We’re seeing this habit with greater frequency as more and more people are emailing from mobile devices; it doesn’t make sense to crank out an extra word on a little keyboard. This lack of closing can reveal a few things. It may imply that you’re on the run, which can be perceived as good or bad: Good because you’re quick to reply no matter where you are; bad because you’re always somewhere doing something else.

Another common approach is to use initials in place of the dropped closing. With this sign-off, perhaps the sender is trying to brand his or her initials. When I sign my emails with “DC,” I’m expecting the respondent to see my initials almost as a stamp of my approval. Maybe I even intend for the recipient to address me as “DC” in his or her reply. The “no closing/initials instead” approach may show that you’re not one to waste time and that you want to set the tone for the entire communication sequence. From my experience, this approach seems particularly prominent amongst tech, entrepreneur and media types.

There’s really no right or wrong way to go about the sign-off, and what it may or may not reveal is open to interpretation. That said, feel free to tell us in the comments section what you think your sign-offs of choice reveal about you, and when and why you use them.

Godspeed,

dave

Dave Clarke is the Communications Strategist at Churnless, a web strategy and production company that helps businesses satisfy, delight, and keep their customers. Follow Dave on Twitter: @thedaveclarke.

Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Email: The Reports of My Death are Greatly Exaggerated

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  1. Sean Johnson Tuesday, June 8, 2010

    My wife and I have gone back and forth about this in the past. She uses “regards”, which to me sounds like “Go to hell.” I use “Be well”, which she thinks sounds like “I’m pretentious.”

    Godspeed is awesome, BTW.

    1. “Regards” is a little too formal, IMO.

      1. I’ve been using “Rgds” for years for basic office communications. If I want to be extra friendly, especially with those outside my company, will use “Warm regards”. Cheers seems artificial in the US … especially coming from someone who grew up in a place like Cleveland or Boise (c’mon!). Sincerely just has an old fashioned ring to it. Thanks is good as a response to something you did or if you need something done … I don’t get the Thx, though (although based on my Rgds, you’d wonder why not).

    2. Regards is what I use, it is somewhat formal, but I am happy to leave my emails relatively formal.

  2. diannawiggins Tuesday, June 8, 2010

    Hey, Dave, thanks for actually thinking through and surfacing something that always sort of nags at me when I’m sending emails and notes to people. It would be interesting to “crowd-source” this one, but then again, it might be like getting a DNA test on a mongrel and getting back results with 400 different breeds.

  3. Wow, you must have a lot of free time on your hands if you can spend so much time reading that much into a single word.

  4. Yeah, I don’t read into the sign off that much. (Although I will say that if you write “Cheers” or “Ciao” you better be from those countries respectively or I will think that you are pretentious.) As long as you put one in there (and it could just be your name), I’m good.

  5. What about “Sincerely”? I know it might sound too formal, but I usually start my emails with “Dear ….” and end with “Sincerely, Allie.”

  6. I like using “cheers,” but my favorite sign off these days is “All the best.” Probably because it’s uncommon, but I also find it friendly, sincere and professional – it’s certainly better than “Best regards.”

    1. I’ve now returned to “cheers” (I’m a Brit so it’s allowed ;) ) but I used “all the best” for quite a while. It’s a nice, friendly sign-off.

  7. hey peter, that’s my son you’re talking about!
    warmly,
    lori

  8. The one that really annoys me is when the sign-off is in their email signature. Kind of kills any good feeling it might generate.

    I’m in the habit of using “Best regards,” for business communications and formal stuff. I use to work in a Japanese company and that was considered the proper form.

    On the more informal stuff I’ve recently been signing off, “Peace and Chocolate.” (Hmmm, I wonder how that would translate to Latin?)

    I’m also in the habit of just signing with “E.” instead of “Evan” or my full name after the sign-off. This habit was formed on a project where the PM got into the habit of just referring to us by our first initial (which sounds strange, but it was all friendly and it worked) and we found it that funny that we just started signing emails that way.

    E.

    1. “Peace and Chocolate.” (Hmmm, I wonder how that would translate to Latin?)”

      I’m sure Romans would wonder this as well, Chocolate is a Maya thing (at the time)

  9. Donald Gasaway Tuesday, June 8, 2010

    I like to use, “Have a great day.”

  10. Mark Wayman Tuesday, June 8, 2010

    As a Brit. living in CA, I always use “Cheers” and agree it is friendly yet professional.

  11. “Cheers” really bugs me. I immediately think of Andy from the Office.

    Lori, I’m surprised you didn’t suggest your favorite: LYMI!

  12. Jason Bradshaw Tuesday, June 8, 2010

    Hi
    I wonder what “regards” would mean?

    Great article.

  13. I totally agree with all of this post!

    I’m a student freelance designer, and my clients are all aware of my student status.

    When I get approached by a new client I always remain formal – switching between the full Kind Regards, or even Kr depending upon the feel of the email? – But once a client commits or we get going, I try and relax the relationship by using Cheers, or I look forward to ‘blah blah blah’.

    Relationship is key with my clients, as its hard to win professional trust when I am still classed as a student.

    Great article!,
    Arran

    (like what I did ^^ ?)

  14. Godspeed?
    I like your chutzpah But you just risked alienating a sizeable percentage of your clientele (unless you’re picky). (http://www.adherents.com/largecom/com_atheist.html).

    The approach mentioned of taking you lead from your customer/employer is a good one, as it also ensures that, should relations go through a rocky patch, your level of formality has been irreproachable in their terms.

    Peace.

    Mark

  15. Maximilian Bartel Wednesday, June 9, 2010

    A few years ago I usually used “Sincerely” but I thought it’s a bit too formal so I switched to “Kind regards” or “Kindly” which works very well and matches the overall tone of the eMail content above most of the time.

    Aside from that, in my opinion it creates a friendly impression which is something I usually try to leave.

  16. I remember taking a typing class in the 60’s. Back then all business letters were signed off “sincerely yours”, and personal letters “truly yours”. Ultimately the business letters were shortened to “sincerely”. It is interesting that anyone would refer to themselves as “yours”. It almost sounds Victorian. Looking at old letters you sometimes see such things as “gratefully yours”, “affectionately yours”, “very truly yours”…. Other interesting ones include “at your service”, “best regards”, “all my best”., “holiday wishes” ….

  17. I tend to use “Regards,” as it’s informal, but still professional.

    If I’m familiar with the person and we’re doing a lot of back and forth I use “A bientot,” which means “until later”. It sounds friendlier and implies an ongoing relationship.

  18. Interesting the cultural (and geographical differences here).

    “Love” is for personal emails only, although including with other fellas but then somewhat tongue-in-cheek (mine, not theirs….).

    Professionally, I an a senior manager in a UK Solicitors office, so our communication terminology is inevitably about 10 years behind the curve. That said:
    I find “Cheers” is fairly informal so use it with people I have an established and friendly relationship with.

    “Warm regards” is for ending a conversation/email thread with someone I have gotten to know more during the conversation but I don’t expect to be in touch with them too soon.
    “Kind regards” is for remaining professional, but not stuffy.
    “Regards” is for when someone has replied in-line to a previous message which I have signed off warmly or kindly.

    Initial contact with clients and professional contacts is definitely always “Yours sincerely”. For some it stays that way throughout the correspondence.

    Written/snailmail correspondence is ALWAYS signed off “Yours sincerely” if written in the first person, and “Yours faithfully” if in the second.

  19. I’ve been using Ryan Seacrest’s “-OUT”. …is that wrong?

    Dirk – out.

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  25. Ricardo Bueno Thursday, June 10, 2010

    I sign off with “Best,” then my name, url and phone number. Somehow I always feel like my email signature is something that I’m always reworking…

  26. Just type whatever comes out naturally – thinking too hard about it is disingenuous and will show through eventually.

    If you’re not the type of person who would say “Cheers” in real life, don’t do it in email just because a website told you it was a good idea.

    When you eventually meet them in person or over the phone, the last thing you want is the person to think, “wow they seem like a totally different person in email.”

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  28. sophia williams Thursday, June 10, 2010

    interesting post! We run workshops for companies on Email Etiquette and you’re right when you say that some of the things that you might consider small or meaningless can actually have a major impact on how you’re perceived by others at work. I think a really common one, especially in the UK is ‘Kind Regards’. I see this as the email version of the letter’s ‘yours sincerely’. I think things like Twitter are also influence peoples’ email etiquette and reducing formality even further.

  29. Have you written about e-mail greetings? Do you use them? If so, what words do you choose?

    I used to think they were redundant. E-mail messages are in memo form, after all; the addressee’s name shows up right above the message. So why repeat it?

    But now so many people begin e-mail with “Hi” or some other greeting that it feels abrupt just to launch into the body of message. (And then there’s the question of punctuation. For the punctilious, “Hi,” doesn’t cut it. Strictly speaking, it should be “Hi” or “Hi, Dave.”

  30. What I am seeing with greater and greater frequency is 1) people not reading past the second sentence. You write “your mother sucks the paint off of a trailer hitch” as your third sentence and 95% of the people will never see that. And 2) people simply ending an email conversation if they do not like the direction its going in. In other words, if they dont wish to talk about something then they dont reply “I would rather not discuss that”, they simply do not reply! That is tantamount to speaking in person and the other person says something and you just turn around and walk away (end the conversation).

    And dont get me started on the phone calling rudeness… how many people call me and then hang up (dont leave voice mail) and then expect me to call them back! AND, similarly, I will call people and leave a voice mail and they call back and ask me “what did you want?”. They didnt listen to the voice mail. Nowadays I respond “listen to my voice mail, thanks, call me back when you have done so. Bye.” and I hang up!

  31. I have an unwritten set of rules for my sign-offs that have come about naturally over the years:

    1. ‘Best regards’ and my full first name for the vast majority of my professional / work emails
    2. ‘Cheers’ for more informal clients and associates that I know well (I’m Scottish)
    3. ‘Regards’ if I’m feeling a little terse with the client in question – no ‘Best’!
    4. At the start of a new ‘topic’ my first email will sign-off with my full name and then as the thread continues, I’ll just use my initial if it’s a quick email: ‘H.’
    5. I always, ALWAYS sign-off one way or another and almost always use a proper greeting too, just a ‘Hi X’ at the start, or ‘Dear X’ for more formal requirements. The lack of either of these things, particularly at the start of a new topic or subject thread with a person, just seems very poor manners to me, as if the person places no real value on the communication.
    6. ‘H.xx’ for my girlfriend. The number of x’s used are determined by a lot of factors… I suspect this could be a topic all of its own!
  32. If someone I dislike, I put “regards”.
    Female I like: “X+O” (hug & kiss)
    I work with Spain where informal, men or women, sign off “un abrazo” (a hug/embrace), and Mexico “abrazos” plural. Formal could be “atentamente” (attentively) which is nice. Otherwise nothing, or cleverly appropriate to message itself, like “happy landings”, “congratulations”, “don’t worry, be happy”….
    And if frequent corresponder I put nothing (less is better). (Also, i dislike logos with signoff because they appear as attachments on handhelds)
    And, with the Gulf eco-distruction, our wars, etc, i think it’s lame to put the goodie “think green before you print” and even worse wasting green ink doing so.
    Adios

  33. I have used “cheers” for years (long before the internet and email, even), not so much as to emulate the Brits, but because I prefer to keep my professional correspondence not only professional, but cheerful (which reflects my personality). Thankfully, it’s very common in my workplace to sign off personal and professional emails with “cheers”.

    Cheers, (c’mon, you HAD to see that coming!)
    Patricia

  34. Bobby Rickey Monday, June 14, 2010

    Seriously, “Cheers” is “Worldly”….I was thinking more douche

  35. I use Cheers, BFN and Thnx, but my favorite is fyi. I think it has a nice finality to it with just the right amount of businessiness (ITAW). fyi, Mike

  36. Deana Goldasich Thursday, June 17, 2010

    Indeed, our email signatures can say a lot about us. I recently received an email from a customer service agent that included a sign-off that got me thinking about this same topic! http://www.wellplannedweb.com/2010/05/email-signatures-free/

  37. What Our E-mail Sign-Offs Say About Us | Business Hacks | BNET Friday, June 18, 2010

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  38. IMHO, “Cheers” should only be used by people who are from a culture/country that uses Cheers – like Britain. Otherwise, it sounds very pretentious, or like the person is trying to be something they are not.

    “My best” or “Best” is obnoxious. It comes across as very self-important. Like the sender is so important that his/her “best” must be bestowed on the receiver. Very irritating.

    For business, “thanks” is good when asking someone to do something. “Regards” or “Best Regards” is good when just imparting information – plus seems to be fairly globally accepted.

    But on the other hand, maybe we are just reading too much into all of this!

  39. I use “cordially” a lot for professional purposes. I like that it’s not as common. And, “cheers” or just the first initial for emails that require less formalities

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  42. I don’t let it bother me, but “Thanks” does deep within me, make me hate people. I lied, it bothers me.

    Just say “Thank you”, two extra letters and you sound less like a douchebag. Google image search “douchebag” and that is my vision of you. Thanks…. douchebag

    Thank you,
    AdamV

  43. As a small business owner who occasionally handles sensitive client material, my email signature includes a disclaimer that basically states that if the reader is not the intended recipient of the email, they are to delete it and please notify us by clicking on the provided link.

    Introductory emails are addressed at the beginning with: ‘Dear Name’ and closed with: ‘Sincerely, Sender’s Name’. This is also what I’ve instructed my team to do. In my experience the best way to determine how ‘informal’ to be changes as the relationship changes. 99% of current client email is started with ‘Hello Client Name’, and end with ‘Thanks, first name’

    Manners are manners people, and just because others are allowing their ‘texting’ language to creep into their everyday life is no excuse for manners…just my honest, old-fashioned opinion!

    Sincerely,

    Viki Garrison

  44. I’ve been in England 4 years and have never seen Cheers used, which is what I used in Canada. Regards seems the standard here for everyone I deal with, which I really dislike I find it is too stiff for my liking.

    The other thing with Dear at the beginning and a formal closing, in this day and age unless it is a truly formal correspondence I don’t think it should be contained in every reply back and forth in an email thread/conversation… but that is just my opinion.

  45. Not sure a pint of Bass is what us Brits drink, but we do use cheers a lot.

    What is the view on the standard sign off of “Kind regards”?

    Cheers

  46. Save the rainforest, Ruchir: What Our Email Sign-offs Say About Us http://t.co/Evymk446

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