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” 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.)
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” 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.
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.
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