How best to close an email?

Obscure signoffs can irk the recipient. They might even doom your future pitches to the spam folder. Here’s how to reply.

Thank you letter

A colleague of mine recently received an email that concluded: V/r

What, she wondered, was V/r? Virtual reality? Violently reactionary? Vocally resentful?

With the help of a team of British codebreakers and a clattering 1940s-era computer, she eventually deduced that the emailer meant, “Very respectfully.”

Once again, let us in the communication business fret overmuch about small matters—the ideal length of a subject line, the proper wordcount of a pitch and, now, the email signoff.

Yet these things matter—at least to people like Jeff Kear, owner of Planning Pod, an event and venue management software company. Kear often gets sales pitches with head-scratching abbreviations, as when a sales rep signed off her email, “YT/SJ.”

Your turn?

“I Googled this and discovered that ‘YT’ or ‘Y/T’ means ‘your turn’ for online gamers, and also during text messaging—that is, your turn to reply,” he says. “So initially I thought it a little presumptuous that they were telling me it was my turn to respond, as I really have no obligation to email them back.”

Upon reflection, he realized YT meant “yours truly” and that SJ conveyed the sender’s initials. “Whatever the translation, I was annoyed that they assumed I should know what they meant, so I marked it as spam and went about my day,” Kear says.

Let’s not end up in the spam folder, shall we?

Although we at Ragan have cautioned against excessive thank-yous, the software company Boomerang says its own study of 350,000 email threads shows that an appreciative ending is most likely to receive a response.

“Thanks in advance” is at the top, with a 66 percent response rate, followed by “thanks” (63 percent) and “thank you” (58 percent). “Best Regards” is down at 53 percent. I often use this last offering, which probably explains why so many people ignore my emails when I ask for an interview.

“Cheers” does slightly better, at 54 percent, but it grates on many. Grammarly (and others) warn that “unless you’re actually British or Australian, it may come off as affected in more formal settings.”

Hoist a tankard of cheer

As for me, when I see “cheers,” it reads as if my correspondent is raising a schooner of Toohey’s in a toast. This just might not be the image you intended leave me with when you send your National Sobriety Week press release.

Forbes Senior Editor Susan Adams has thought a lot about this topic. She has written about 57 ways to sign off on an email, followed by 89 ways to sign off on an email. Several of her points:

  • Don’t use quotes. They bog down emails and take up readers’ precious time, she says. I kind of like quotes, as long as they are at the bottom with the phone number and Twitter handle. But if they’re too obscure, they serve no purpose.
  • Avoid oversized corporate logos. Sometimes companies insist we include these things, Adams says, but if they are too big, they draw the eye away from the message.
  • Include your title and contact info, but keep it short, she says. She recommends you avoid a list of links promoting your projects and publications. Same, presumably, for credentials.

I go back and forth on advanced academic degrees. My signature refers to a hard-won master of fine arts in acrobatic high-wire culinary studies (writing, actually), but as often as not I cut it. It seems boastful and irrelevant, even if not everybody can flip a pancake (or dangle a participle) while traversing a tightrope over Niagara Falls.

Here are some closings that others deem irksome:

Abbreviations and acronyms. BFN (bye for now), BR (best regards), Thx or Rgrds. And TTFN? Ugh. Forbes’ Adams reports it means “ta-ta for now.” Like Kear, I am irked by any signoff that I have to Google to understand.

Also in this category, Beverly Friedmann, a content manager for ReviewingThis, lists YOLO (you only live once), B/W (best wishes), LMK (let me know), etc. Used in a professional setting, she says, these “lack some degree of etiquette. Does it really take much effort to spell out your message, especially a very simple one?” she says.

XOXO. No. Please. Friedmann has seen this used in professional settings, but she adivises against sending “a hugs and kisses signoff to our direct reports, or via work emails in general.”

She recommends, “You have my sincere gratitude,” or, “Extended thanks for X/Y.”

As ever. Grammarly calls this “a fine choice for people you’ve built an ongoing working relationship with.” It does seem vague and off-putting. Unless it’s from someone very close (in which case, it sounds cold), it leaves the recipient wondering just what the eternal state of our relationship is.

Yours. The website Business Email Etiquette scoffs at this (“Yours for what?”), but one could offer the same criticism of their preferred “Yours Truly.” (“Yours truly for what?”) The bigger problem with “yours” is its brusqueness.

Have a wonderful bountiful lustful day. Only one person on earth, apparently, has ever ended an email this way (a Forbes writer), but the magazine cites it, so we’re including it here. I say, go for it. Try it on that employee of the opposite sex whom you supervise. Make sure you have a large, empty box handy so you can pack up your desk when you’re fired for it.

Kind regards is an odd signoff, says Ragan colleague Carlin Twedt. “What exactly is a kind regard? No one would ever say that in real life, which makes it almost sound sarcastic, like ‘Have a blessed day.’”

“Take it easy,” “Have a nice (or blessed) day” and other imperatives. Some signoff sages take umbrage at commands to do anything, including enjoy yourself. Then again, these strike different people in different ways. A blessing from a pastor or a rabbi might cause less irritation than one from a subordinate reporting that he just dinged your car in the employee parking lot. Either way, these are a trifle breezy for formal communications.

All best. “If you want to say ‘all the best,’ just say ‘all the best,’” grouses Mashable writer Chloe Bryan, in a list of worst to best walkaways. “No need for this half-assed nonsense.”

On the other hand, she ranks “all the best” as her favorite closing. She quotes a colleague: “It’s the Oprah hug of signoffs,” and adds, “I agree.”

Have a more than tolerable day! Amire, who recently received this signoff, shared that uncultured pearl with a wry, “Sheesh, that’s uplifting!”

High five from down low. Adams says a colleague receives this dreadful signoff from a publicist who handles tech clients. Is the writer a Lilliputian? A groveling minion of the great Kublai Khan? A dirty-minded gutter-dweller?

Boilerplate declaring that email content is off the record. If we are arranging an interview or a dinner engagement, this is unnecessary. If, on the other hand, you are chatting in a newsworthy fashion to a reporter and preemptively declaring it off the record, be careful. A reporter might miss the boilerplate at the end. Besides, emails can be forwarded or become public through lawsuits, making the declaration meaningless.

A friend of mine—a Pulitzer Prize winner—once wisely said: “Never put anything in an email that you wouldn’t want to see up on a courtroom wall.”

If you have gossip to dish to a reporter, use the phone. And make sure you tell the reporter if don’t want it recorded.

Sent from my iPhone, so please excuse typos. Here’s another where people are of two minds. Preemptive apologies don’t bother some, but they irk others. editor Robby Brumberg admits it’s “a silly quibble,” but he dislikes these signoffs that anticipate or apologize for typos in advance. His advice:

  • Stop apologizing for every damn thing.”
  • “Instead of resigning yourself to failure, spend a few more moments proofreading before hitting ‘send.’”

Pardon my monkey thumbs. Similar in intent, but goofy. Besides, in today’s environment, if this email becomes public, you could have hundreds of angry simians protesting out front, hoisting placards that read, “WHAT’S WRONG WITH OUR THUMBS?”

Peace an’ blessin’s. After I queried colleagues about oddball email signoffs they had received, Meg Hein, Ragan’s manager of event logistics, replied with this. She did it only to rib me. I hope.

In closing, email signoffs strike different people in ways, so it’s best to play it safe. Having a wonderful bountiful lustful day? Good for you! Just keep it to yourself, if you would. TMI.


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