I receive hundreds of work emails daily. In the recent past, I have increasingly directed my attention to salutation lines rather than the content itself. It is interesting how many different sign-offs people come up with to diversify their working day – and add a pinch of friendliness into otherwise dry business correspondence.
In an era when written communication was king, it was all easier; “Yours faithfully” belonged with “Dear Sir / Madame” and “Yours sincerely” with “Mr. [Last name]”. “Yours truly” and “Yours respectfully” did the job equally well. Ever since email took over as the dominant means of communication, however, things have not been as clear-cut.
My analysis of several hundreds of colleagues’ emails has revealed some notable trends. The most popular – and neutral – sign-offs are the usual suspects of “Regards”, “Thanks” and “Best”, as well as their various permutations. The former is commonly replicated as “Kind regards” or “Best regards”, depending on the degree of formality. “Thanks” can be elegantly extended into “Thank you”. “Best” typically stands for “Best wishes”, “Best of luck” or that good old “Best regards”. All rather obvious and not really worth discussing.
Things got more interesting as I delved deeper into my email archives. The lower layer contained somewhat less pleasant variations of the three classic sign-offs above. Firstly, there was a clear tendency to abbreviate. Somehow “BR”, “KR”, “Rgds”, “BW”, “Yrs”, “Tks” or even as little as “Tx” did not entertain – instead leaving an impression that the sender could not be bothered to strike a few more keys. “Yrs” got me thinking about “years” rather than anything else, while “BW” looked more like a colourless TV solution. Interestingly, albeit in no way less ugly than the two common shorties for “Thanks”, “ThanQ” or “TQ” appeared nowhere in my correspondence. I remain confident about those two – so watch this space.
On the opposite end of the pole sat overly extensive salutations. “Many thanks and kind regards” left me feeling anything but kind. “Best wishes for a good weekend” made me wish it was Monday instead. Finally, “Thank you very much indeed” put me firmly to sleep. Seriously, some people have too much time on their hands – or spend hours playing Typing Maniac.
Next in line were misplaced sign-offs. My personal favourites were “Please let me know” and “Apologies”, both followed by a comma and a name. The former one certainly mobilised but would belong better in the message itself. Apologising made rather a negative finish. Both failed to resemble a salutation in its most stretched definition.
Then there was a string of somewhat relaxed sign-offs like “Cheers”, “Take care” and “Bye for now”, with or without an exclamation sign immediately after. Generally, forced friendliness came forward as a little sloppy. Take exclamation signs; while it is perfectly fine to use raised intonation in verbal business communication, the juvenile written “!” belongs on a friend’s birthday card instead. “Cheers” is what I’d casually say in a pub, not put down in writing; “Take care” sounds mildly insincere when coming from anyone less than a good acquaintance. Worse still are foreign salutations such as “Ciao” and “Merci”, oozing overcooked informality. Let’s please stick to English ones – or then write the rest of the email in Italian or French, too. I’ll have it translated externally and send you the bill.
One would ask, how do I sign my business emails? I am hereby happy to announce that, after three years of professional employment, I have modestly settled at “Thank you” and “Many thanks”. “Much appreciated” is the most recent contender to dilute that list.
The only problem is that, most of the time, there really is nothing to be thankful for in business correspondence – let alone appreciate. It sounds like I may just start signing off with my first name instead.