Writing an email isn’t so hard, but figuring out how to sign off can be a real challenge.
Is “cheers” too casual? Too pretentious? Too British? Is “sincerely” timeless and professional, or stodgy and overly formal?
Perhaps, as Matthew J.X. Maladypersuasively argued at Slate, we should just call the whole thing off and ditch the email closer altogether.
But as anyone who has sat staring blankly at a screen weighing “best” vs. “all best” vs. “all the best” knows, not signing off doesn’t feel quite right either — especially if the context is professional.
“Not closing seems way too abrupt,” Barbara Pachter, a business etiquette expert, tells Business Insider. “If you have a salutation, you should have a closing to balance it out.”
Will Schwalbe, who coauthored “Send: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do It Better” with David Shipley, agrees, pointing out that “we don’t go around in life barking orders at one another, and we shouldn’t on email either.”
And, manners aside, the email close serves a practical function. It helps “define the personality of the email’s content,” says Aliza Licht, author of the career guide “Leave Your Mark.”
It’s also an opportunity to define or redefine your relationship to your correspondent, Schwalbe adds. A shift from “love” to “best,” for example, indicates that you may have a problem.
If we accept — at least for the moment — that email sign-offs are here to stay, the question becomes which one to use, and in what contexts to use it.
We had Pachter, Schwalbe, and Licht weigh in on 29 common email closings. Here are the ones they say to avoid in most situations — and which one to use when you’re just not sure.
THE WINNER: ‘Best’
All three experts agree that “best” is among the safest possible choices, inoffensive, and almost universally appropriate.
So when in doubt, go with “best.”
Sign-offs to avoid in most situations:
“Fine if it’s for a favor the person has done, but obnoxious if it’s a command disguised as premature gratitude,” Schwalbe says.