Q: How do you decide which e-mail sign-off to use in any given situation?
A: I wish there were a single, all-purpose way to end an e-mail. Old-fashioned letters were easy: You wrote something fairly long and substantive and attached an appropriately decorous sign-off. E-mails, on the other hand, vary widely in length, content, and tone, so picking the right note to end on is more of a head-scratcher. “Ciao” looks pretentious, unless you’re Italian. “Later” is excessively casual. And, sadly, no valediction is ever going to top the one that jazz trumpeter and New Orleans native Louis Armstrong sometimes used to close his letters: “Red beans and ricely yours!”
While I think Mr. Armstrong, who died long before the advent of e-mail, could get away with his signature sign-off whether he was writing to his mother or the First Lady, that’s only because genius deserves special dispensation. The rest of us have to figure out the best possible way to bid everyone adieu, from a dear pal to our supervisor’s supervisor. Consult this cheat sheet the next time you fret before pressing Send.
For your husband, your kids, and other close relatives and friends: Opt for “Love,” but feel free to pile on kisses and hugs when making an onerous request. My personal record is “xoxoxoxoxoxoxo,” which I appended to an e-mail to one of my kids, acknowledging how unpleasant it is to walk the dogs in a rainstorm…before reiterating the necessity of doing it anyway.
For your boss: “Thanks very much” is good. Abject gratitude is always a winning default position.
For your future boss: If you’re applying for a new job, lay it on a little thicker. “Sincerely yours” or “Truly yours” works nicely. Either indicates that you stand ready to pledge un-flinching loyalty.
For other PTA moms: I like “Best.” It signals warm feelings toward a group focused on improving your child’s life. And since it’s not always possible to be as dedicated as the most hard-core members (maybe you’re e-mailing the bake-sale chairwoman at midnight to say your plane is delayed, preventing you from baking a batch of blondies for tomorrow’s big event), it is critical to sound likable.
For an ex-boyfriend or ex-husband: Here, avoid “Love,” no matter how close you’ve remained post-breakup. If you want to convey platonic affection, go with something like “Warmly.”
For anyone who will perform a necesary task for you: (watching your kids, fixing your toilet, and so on): With “All the best,” you send a valuable message to a service provider. Namely: I will offer you coffee and snacks while you work—and, yes, I pay well.
For anyone who might sue you: “Respectfully yours” might seem obsequious in another situation but could butter up a litigious neighbor.
For everybody else: “Kind regards” is short, sweet, and a tad formal, making it a nearly flawless fallback