Signing off with Sincerity by Angela Caldin
Do you ever write an email, marvel at the subtle yet gracious way you have conveyed your point, admire your well-chosen turn of phrase, but then stumble over how to sign off in a way that rings true? I often ponder for some time over which of the many alternatives available is the most appropriate. It’s not like the old days when we wrote letters and it was set in stone that Dear Sir/Madam required Yours faithfully and Dear Mr/Mrs Smith required Yours sincerely. Now the floodgates are open and you are free to choose from a bewildering selection of sign-offs.
Many options involve the word best. You can have Best wishes which always sounds to me a bit like a greetings card, or you can hype it up a bit and say Very best wishes. Best on its own sounds as though you couldn’t be bothered to elaborate, as does My best, and as for Bests, what’s that all about, why the plural? All the best is popular, but I find it rather blokey, almost bordering on the macho.
Then we come to regards. This rather stilted word denotes esteem and consideration to the recipient from the sender. I must say that I find it rather old-fashioned and out of place in the modern world of email. Many people use Regards on its own, but I always think that’s a bit brusque. You can doll it up a bit by adding best or warm, or even warmest if you’re feeling really overheated. Kind regards crops up a lot, but I can’t help feeling that kindness isn’t really what we’re looking for in the context of emailing, although I’d be the first to advocate that we need more kindness in the world. Some people opt for Warmly or Warmest on their own, but that really annoys me as I’m left thinking warmest what for heaven’s sake?
Others jettison all these possibilities and turn to the realm of thanks. There’s Thanks pure and simple, or Thanks! with an exclamation mark. There’s Thank you, Many thanks, or Thanks so much. I am very much in favour of saying thank you and I end with Many thanks quite a lot. But I worry that sometimes these thanking expressions are used when there isn’t really much to be thanking for. Sometimes they appear when you’re asking someone to perform a task and can seem like an order with a forced note of appreciation rather than a genuine expression of gratitude.
A term I find useful as a sign-off when I’m trying to convey information is Hope this helps and I like Looking forward to seeing you when a meeting is in the offing. But I don’t like Take care – I’m not sure why people wouldn’t be taking care without me telling them to, and in any case, anything can happen at any time and people can’t guard against it.Similarly, I think Be well is a difficult one, because you just never know what someone’s state of health is.
In really informal emails it’s sometimes hard to strike the right note of affection and friendship. I’ve seen Cheers! used, but that always reminds me of alcohol of which I am not a fan. I’m drawn to Ciao which is cheerful and playful, but I can see that some people might find it pretentious. Love might seem too intimate or over the top and I used to avoid it, but now I feel more able to toss it in here and there in a what-the-hell kind of way, and for my nearest and dearest Lots of love fits the bill.
There’s always the option of signing off with just your name which may look a bit terse but it does avoid some of the pitfalls described above and it’s what we often do when we’re in a back-and-forth exchange. Come to think of it, do we really need a sign-off? Can’t we just say what we’ve got to say and leave it at that? It’s clear from articles on the net that much can be read into a sign-off and probably a great deal more than the writer intended. Maybe the best and safest option is to make the points we want to make, append our name and leave it at that.