You’ve put blood, sweat and real-life tears into perfecting the ultimate CV. You’ve stayed up all night crafting every exquisite sentence in your covering letter. Now all you need to do is write a whip-smart email to tie it all together and, ping, you are done.
It might seem simple enough, but much like a scarf you throw on as you leave the house, your email and in particular the way you sign it off, often makes the first and therefore the most lasting impression.
But how to play it? With smart phones giving us email-on-the-go and text-speak infiltrating our everyday language it’s hard to know. Do you go trad with yours faithfully? Be BFFs with a cheers buddy? Submissive with a thank you and let me know if there’s anything else I can do? Or full diva and sign off with just your first name, like Cher would?
We took a closer look at the many ways you can sign off an email, and asked a few experts for their thoughts:
Rumour has it that the big guns on Wall Street favour the Cher approach. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon apparently signs off with just Jamie, as does Lloyd ‘Lloyd’ Blankfein of Goldman Sachs. We’re told other experienced Wall Streeters take it a step further and have their email roll right into their boilerplate signature. These are the unfettered valedictions of people who clearly feel they have no need for linguistic buttresses to hold up their name.
“It says you mean business,” claimed one milldly sinister former investment banker who didn’t want to be named. “It's intimidating and makes the recipient know they need to act.”
But, says Hallie Crawford, founder of HallieCrawford.com Career Coaching, unless you are sufficiently well known and/or established, this approach could have you sounding a little too casual.
“For your work email signoff, just your first name can make it too personal. It comes off as strange,” says Crawford.
Context matters a lot, says Alyssa Gelbard, president of Point Road Group, an executive career consultancy.
“We see this non-sign off with just an email signature a lot these days. It’s acceptable in limited situations where you have a well-established internal relationship with someone you email regularly. It can also be acceptable externally if you’ve had a long back and forth with someone, particularly when setting up meetings, but it shouldn’t be the initial standard for closing an email to a new contact or one in which you don’t know well (and most definitely not to a recruiter or potential employer).”
If you don’t know the person you’re emailing that well, it’s best to avoid overly casual communication as it is too easily misinterpreted,” says Gelbard. “The message having no closing salutation sends is that since you weren’t interested in taking any time to type a close, you don’t care that much about the email subject or recipient.”
Just your initial (eg. M)
Another trend we see doing the rounds is the use of a single initial as the email close. “It’s appropriate only in very limited instances” says Gelbard. “Again, if you don’t know the person whom you’re emailing, have had limited communication with them or it’s in the context of a more formal situation, that single letter (or even both initials) isn’t appropriate.”
This is the safe option; positive, polite and vanilla enough to not say too much about you or offend your email recipient.
“Best wishes or best regards are good options when you don't know a person well, but want to be safe and friendly,” says Gelbard.
But don’t confuse your best with your warm, she adds. “Steer clear of using the word warm, especially when you don’t know the person or if it’s a potential employer. It’s too sacarin.”
Wait, are you from the 19th century? “Formal, old-fashioned sign-offs have no place in a modern format like email,” says Gelbard. Using this kind of language makes you sound out-of-date and suggests you’re not comfortable in the medium.
“Maybe for a cover letter if you know someone will appreciate it, but not in an email."
Thanks/thank you/with everlasting gratitude
Unless you want to stamp young and inexperienced on your forehead, steer clear of thanking people you are hoping to impress in emails. “It’s overly gracious and, worse, it exudes weakness,” says the scary banker. Constantly thanking someone in work exchanges subconsciously places you on the bottom rung. Looking forward to hearing from you gives off a similarly lame vibe, apparently. “And whatever you do, no exclamation points,” he adds.
Ttyl, Ttys, Thx, See ya later
Even if you do know the person well, language or emoticons you might use when texting aren’t appropriate, regardless of your generation. Though you might feel inclined to say Ttyl, Ttys, Thx, cu l8ter, these aren’t professional closings to emails, especially to anyone external. It’s also not a good idea not to use them in emails to colleagues, unless you know they’re acceptable. Emails can be forwarded easily and if your boss sees overly-casual language you used to close an email that’s out of step with company culture, it can influence what he/she thinks about you.
See also cultural appropriations such as Cheers and Ciao, which can sound cringey and/or from the 1980s.
Speak soon/take care
These are OK but a bit meh, more like something you might write in a letter to a kindly aunt than the person who might make or break your future. Telling someone you don’t know that well to take care can also sound weirdly threatening. These kinds of cosy sign-offs are best avoided unless you have a pre-existing relationship with your recipient - for example it’s your aunt - that makes it OK.
All about the close
Attention to grammar and proper formatting is also important. If you are emailing from your phone while out walking your dog it can be all too tempting to forget about commas and lines an spacing. But as minute as these details sound, it all adds to the impression others have of you. Gelbard says: “If you regularly forget the comma when signing off or if the closing, comma and your name are all on one line, it can indicate that you do things quickly and lack attention to detail.”
Crawford suggests you have a strong closing sentence: “Take the time to write a closing sentence that includes an action item, deadline you will meet or reference to a next step, and sign it appropriately.”
Photo by KAL VISUALS on Unsplash
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