Proper email closings is a key part of any successful message. After all, they are the very last thing the reader of your email will see.
This means that no matter how important your email’s content is, the whole spiel can lose its impact if you ill-advisedly opt for a “yours truly” over “regards” when signing off.
It sounds silly, but how you close a message really is that big of a deal. So, with the importance of closing words in mind, let’s dive into the best and worst email sign-offs you can choose from for your messaging needs.
The best email closing lines
As Karen Hertzberg wrote on behalf of Grammarly, a company that often pitches its services around the idea of sending better business emails, “regards” is a very safe choice. To quote Hertzberg directly: “Yes, it’s a bit stodgy, but it works in professional emails precisely because there’s nothing unexpected or remarkable about it.”
Therein lies the secret recipe for good business etiquette: being unexceptional, unoriginal, but serviceable. That’s “regards” in a nutshell. “Best regards” accomplishes a similar function, but be mindful that it might come off a bit strong if used frequently, especially for minor emails. Use the “best” variant sparingly for maximum effect.
Segueing off our “best regards” vs “regards” discussion, it’s important to note that there’s a large group of people who believe “best” by itself is the, if you’ll excuse the overuse of the word, best business email sign-off ever. On a list of the best and worst email closings, Jacquelyn McKee wrote for Business Insider that “best” is best, based off BI’s interviews with business etiquette and communications experts.
Best email closings based on the situation
Sincerely is a tricky sign-off since it’s simultaneously one of the best and worst email closings. It’s one of the best if this is your very first email to a person (especially a potential business contact) and you want to appear formal and respectful. However, it can be construed as overly formal and cold if used in reply to someone sending you messages with closings like “best” and “thanks.” As such, “sincerely” works if you want to kick off an interaction, but it shouldn’t remain in the conversation past that initial launch.
Here’s another sign-off that’s simultaneously one of the best and worst email closings. “Thanks” is great if you’re asking someone for information or replying to an inquiry of theirs regarding how to do a job for you. It’s great if you’re sincerely grateful for something, as long as the rest of your message reinforces that sentiment.
“Thanks” is a bad idea if you’re assigning a task out of the blue to someone or making an unreasonable request, as it’ll seem like you’re preemptively thanking them on the assumption that they’ll do whatever you want. It’s rude to come off like this, so avoid “thanks” unless it’s a situation where thanking someone is guaranteed to be mutually understood as a positive show of gratitude.
5. No closing
There’s something satisfying about skipping the headache of figuring out a proper closing. For this reason, no closing at all is among the best of the best and worst email closings. While you shouldn’t kick off correspondence without closing of some sort, or leave your initial reply to someone else without a “thanks” or “regards,” once you get an email chain going it’s safe to ditch the closing and just plop your name at the end of your message. Forbes writer Susan Adams says as much in her list of potential email closings, calling the name-without-closing route “terse but just fine in many circumstances.”
Dropping your name without a closing isn’t a great option because of what it communicates to the person you’re messaging, but rather, it’s great because it saves you time and spares you the headaches of maneuvering the social pleasantries of something as trivial as an email. That, in a way, makes it the best closing of them all.
Examples of the worst email closings
6. Boundless affection
There’s no better place to start whittling down the list of the best and worst email closings than with the obvious: don’t send overly affectionate closings with business messages. This means no “love” or “xoxo” when signing off. If you’re super close with the person and enjoy some playful rapport with them, keep that sort of affection offline, and if you’re introducing yourself in this email, stay far, far away from these types of greetings.
This rule of thumb applies even if it’s in jest and directed toward a coworker you’ve been buddy-buddy with for years because if anyone ever wants to take you to task with HR for inappropriate conduct, the first piece of evidence they’ll use is an email sent by you with closings like “hugs and kisses.”
On a more general level, these sorts of cozy sign-offs can be misinterpreted with ease, so if you want to make sure your message doesn’t come across the wrong way, keep your word choice business-savvy.
7. Abbreviations and acronyms
Signing off with “thx” is not acceptable in a formal business email. Nor is “Ttyl” (talk to you later) or any acronym, abbreviation, or another form of shorthand text. It reeks of informality and should be the type of thing you reserve for text messages to a friend as opposed to formal emails to a potential employer or current work colleague. There’s such a thing as friendly professionalism, but abbreviations derived from teenagers’ instant-messaging patterns lack the “professional” part of that equation.
8. Harsh language
What better way to round out the best and worst email closings article than with the absolute worst closing of all: harsh language. This can be anything from a joking insult to a full-on slew of expletives. Whether it’s in jest, just your way of being casually crude, or part of an angry tirade you probably shouldn’t be putting in print in the first place, harsh language as a send-off is the biggest “no-no” on the list.
Regardless of your intentions, this sort of closing can only ever come back to bite you in the behind, so don’t do it. Even if you think it’d be cathartic to send one big “$%&# off” email to a boss you’re not fond of, a message with that sort of closing could somehow resurface at your next job interview and cause a lot of sticky questions. Most industries are small worlds and the number of people who know each other can be surprising, so never put harsh language in print, especially as a closing—i.e., the last thing anyone will remember from your email.