Is it naff to sign off an e-mail with ‘cheers’ or ‘best’?

I have recently moved jobs from a fairly traditional bank to a much less formal commercial bank, where the friendly approach to business is encouraged. In most regards, I feel I am settling in well, but I still feel that the tone of my e-mails is not quite right. I am looking for an e-mail sign-off that can be used in office correspondence, is brief (perhaps one word), which is less formal than “regards” but is not over-friendly as in “cheers” or “best” and so on. Any suggestions? Banker, male, 46

Lucy’s answer

It used to be quite simple. “Yours faithfully” went with “Dear Sir”, and “Yours sincerely” with “Dear Mr x”. But now, 10 years after e-mail became the preferred tool for business communications, there is still no agreement on how to say goodbye.

Recently, I counted 100 e-mails sent to me and found 35 different ways of signing off. Of these, 30 were trying to be friendly, and all were annoying in different ways.

The first problem came from trying to sound warm. “Take care” and “Warmest regards” ooze insincerity, though are better than “Warmly”, which is soppy and leaves me feeling distinctly chilly.

The next failed attempt at friendliness involves striking a matey note. “Cheers” and “Catch you later” sound more sloppy than soppy – and dim, too.

Worse than mateyness is cheeriness – usually signalled by an exclamation mark, which should have no place in e-mails, especially not at the end. “Have a good one!”; “All the best!”; “Enjoy the weekend!” are sloppy, dim and grating.

Less dim, but no less misguided, are abbreviations. These achieve some informality, but at the cost of being insulting by implying that the writer can’t be bothered to make a couple of additional keystrokes. “BR”, which is distressingly popular, still means British Rail to me. “Rgds” is hideous, and “HTH” (hope that helps) does not help at all. One reader has written in recommending you sign off “Yrs Ev”. I wish I could be confident he was joking.

The two most popular “friendly” e-mail sign-offs are “Thanks” and “Best”. The first is acceptable if there is something to be thankful for, but in most e-mails this is not the case. And the second is never all right as it makes one wonder: best what?

The reason it is so difficult to find a friendly e-mail sign-off is that the starting point is wrong. Work e-mails are not meant to be friendly, as they are not written to friends. Instead, they should be clear and polite and, above all, short or else no one will get as far as the sign-off anyway.

For years I have adopted the following rule. For people outside the company, I write “Best wishes”. For those inside, I simply write my name.

Your advice

Hit random keys

Hit caps lock. Hit four random keys. All your colleagues will think you’re using some new internet acronym, and will be embarrassed that they’re not “down” enough to know what it means.

TWKL Director, male, 41

via ft.com

hmmm – now here’s some food for thought!
I’ve been using Cheers for a while now and I am tiring of it… so perhaps it’s time to find a more Aussie style sign off..?
See ya? (a little too informal, perhaps) or.. I am rather partial to the random key suggestion… any thoughts, contributions to add?
BFNid
ABB 😉

3 thoughts on “Is it naff to sign off an e-mail with ‘cheers’ or ‘best’?

  1. I’ve used “cheers” for years. In the company that I work, it is an unusual and rather chatty approach. When I use “regards” the tone is much more severe – and people respond to both styles accordingly.

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