“RREGARDS”. ” BEST WISHES “. “Warmly”. “Cheers”. ” Take care “. Words at the end of a business email may seem trivial. However, the signature counts. Even the ubiquitous “Sent from my iPhone” can serve as justification for brevity and typos or as a virtuous signal that the sender took the time to respond despite obviously not being at their desk. It is therefore worth considering how the end of your missive will be perceived on the other end, especially since it is likely to be archived in perpetuity.
The appropriate signature depends on your position in the corporate pecking order, your relationship to the recipient, and the nature of the exchange. Your columnist, a Bartleby guest, has some general advice.
First, take it easy on informality. Use proper grammar and spelling. It’s hard to imagine you could do much with the seconds saved with a “see you” or “thank you” instead of writing the full words. Bartleby herself often lurks at the intersection of the bustle of life and artificial intelligence. ” I get it! » gthe email’s predictive algorithm suggests it, and your columnist often clicks on the box. It may be lazy but also efficient. It removes the need for a greeting (part of the job of which is done by the affectionate exclamation mark instead). Use this tactic if you’re really in a rush or too melancholy to engage with the world.
Spelling things also helps to avoid confusion. An editor at The Economist signs like “X” – because his first name starts with that letter, not because he likes osculation too much (he uses “XX” for his close friends; his last name doesn’t start with X). Especially when emailing someone for the first time, it’s essential not only to include your full name and last name, but also to avoid popular terms such as “Ciao” and “Be good “.
Bartleby’s heart sinks every time she sees a signing trying to give off a laid back vibe. They ooze need. Endearing terms like “toodles” or “lots of love” don’t enhance closeness with the recipient unless the closeness is already there. “Smiles” is indescribable. “High five from down low,” which a publicist used in an email exchange, is worse.
Avoid being prescriptive. “Have a nice day”, “Happy Monday” or “Calm down” do not promote relaxation. “Stay safe”, popular in times of confinement, evokes sex education manuals. “Looking forward to a response” will invariably delay sending the response. “Check out my latest book,” especially with Amazon links, is rude. “Follow me on Twitter” is discourteous.
Then be consistent. “Sincerely yours” was a common way to end a business letter in the 19th century. But at that time, the correspondence was nuanced. “Your faithfully” could only be preceded by “Dear Sir” (or, on rare commercial occasions, “Dear Madam”). If the recipient was named (“Dear Mr. So-and-so”), the bookend was “Sincerely yours.” Today, writers attach the formal to the informal. If your subject line is “Now in paperback,” don’t overcompensate by customizing your signature. If you’re sending out a press release about emissions cuts, don’t end your note with “hugs.”
Don’t shout to get attention. Latin began to die out in the 6th century and was later abandoned for the vernacular. So avoid including sayings in a dead language (“nil posse creari de nilo” because a default greeting is a bit outrageous). One of Bartleby’s venture capital correspondents agrees with Bertrand Russell’s observation that “the problem with the world is that the stupid are sure of themselves and the smart are full of doubts” – which sounds, well, sure of themselves.
Long automatic greetings can be tedious (“I use Inbox When Ready to protect my focus” is just too much information). If you want to cut a short thread, consider “Thanks in advance”. Yes, this may seem presumptuous to some. But it has the merit of saving you a follow-up email.
Certain elements of the company’s signature are beyond your control. It may include the company logo or disclaimers imposed by company policy (“Please consider the environment before printing this email”). But the function of signatures is to sign. Technology may have disrupted the epistolary form, but as with all last words, much still depends on the echo they leave in your mind.
Thanks for your consideration. Speak soon.
This column may contain confidential items. If you are not an intended recipient, please notify the sender and delete all copies. It may also contain personal opinions which are not those of The Economist Group.
Read more from Bartleby, our columnist on management and work:
How to Make Hybrid Work a Success (April 9)
The case of managerial decency (April 2)
What an Honest Exit Speech Would Look Like (March 26)
This article originally appeared in the Business section of the print edition under the title “How to Sign an Email”