Learning how to effectively communicate via email is one of the most underrated professional skills we can acquire. For many of us, it's the only form of business letter we'll ever send (aside from, of course, the dreaded cover letter).
Every element of your email is important, from avoiding bad grammar to properly spelling the recipient’s name. I cannot tell you how frustrating it is whenever I get an email or letter addressed to “Laura.” My name (Lauren) is in my email address! How did you get that right, but still manage to misspell my name in your greeting?
Writing a business letter, in a weird way, is it's own art form. The most experienced emailers have a one-of-a-kind business email strategy that focuses on every aspect of the letter. One of the most important but overlooked aspects of an email that only a few people have mastered? The email sign-off. Even though they're in every business letter we format and send, we rarely give these sign-offs the proper attention that they deserve.
At first glance, your complimentary close probably sounds like a non-issue. As long as you’re not ending your professional email with “with love,” you’re probably set, right? Wrong. The valediction you're closing your letter with might have the opposite effect you're hoping it will.
What Are Some Signatures That You Should Never Use?
1. "Best/Warm Regards"
Why should your regards be "the best" or even kind of warm when you either a) are cold-emailing this person and don’t know them or b) only know them in a professional setting? This is why you should put "best regards" on the back burner. Even though it seems like a kind, complimentary close, it's too personal for initial business correspondence. Best to save this salutation for when you’re emailing your grandma or best friend. Instead, you can sign an email with a simple "regards" or "best." (More on different and better variations of "best regards" later in this article!)
2. "Yours truly"
Again, this is overly familiar and unprofessional. While it has it's pro and con, you want the recipient to hold you in high regard as a professional, not as somebody who might send them homemade cookies. Unless you’re emailing your significant other or a family member, steer clear. In general, you should avoid business letter sign-offs that are too friendly, focus too much on well wishes and any letter closing that expresses love.
3. Your name
You should never use this in your initial email to someone. It comes off as impersonal and kind of rude — like you couldn’t be bothered to properly end your email with a farewell. This is, however, my favorite email signature for when I’m in a long email chain with multiple people. It can feel like ending each of my responses with an official sign-off is obnoxious, so just my name is a concise solution.
4. "I look forward to hearing from you"
This signature is one of my pet peeves; it is essentially a guilt trip and demands that the recipient write you back. (Are you going to be constantly refreshing and managing your inbox until I ping you back?) Instead of writing this, use your power thesaurus to come up with a different email signature. Trust me — the recipient will thank you!
I don’t want to just rid you of all of your sign-off faves without providing any alternatives, though.
What Are Some Signatures That You Should Use?
This one is my personal favorite, and I don’t care who doesn’t like it! The meaning of this signature has flexibility, as it leans towards either “have the best day” or “with all my best wishes.” It’s not incredibly formal but is still professional, which is how I like to live my work life. When writing your next business correspondence letter, you could also opt to use its older and slightly more serious relative: "best wishes.”
This sign-off is a business letter mainstay for a reason. Yes, it’s very formal, but it's also universally accepted in emails. It’s like saying “bless you” when someone sneezes. No one really thinks twice about what it actually means, they just like that you made the effort to be polite.
3. "Thank you"
This is appropriate for thanking someone for providing you with assistance, helping with a service or for patronizing your business. You should never use it when you don’t legitimately have something for which to thank the recipient, or else it comes off as sarcastic and rude. That's not how you want to be seen in an email! When in doubt, go with a formal salutation. It's better to be seen as kind of more formal as opposed to rude.
In the end, emails are pretty subjective, but the above is a reminder that the way you end your emails is worth some thought.
What Are Some Other Email Resources?
If you're working on writing better emails, be sure to check out Fairygodboss' pieces on writing emails that are professional and that will be read. Here are some resources to get you started.
- How To Write An Email That Will Actually Be Read
- 7 Ways To Close An Email Like A Pro
- Why You MUST Send A Post-Interview Thank You — And How It Should Look
- 3 Super Fast Tips For Creating A Professional Email Signature
Next time you're writing a message, make sure to keep your signature a priority!
Lauren McEwen is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and social media manager for "Hermione Granger and the Quarter Life Crisis."