These Are the Worst Ways to Start and End Emails, According to a New Study

People aren't into that "Sent from my iPhone" disclaimer.

Email is a universal communication tool that pretty much everyone across every industry has to navigate. But, as with many other adult life skills, many of us just learned how to do it by observation, not from any specific instruction or specialized course. So, if you've ever wondered, "Am I doing this right?" before sending a work email, you definitely aren't alone. Even still, there are a number of unwritten rules to email communication and many people have strong opinions about the dos and don'ts of sending a professional email message.


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Preply, a language-learning app and e-learning platform, wanted to get to the bottom of how people really feel about different styles of email communication, so the company surveyed more than 1,000 Americans to get their takes. As they say, first impressions are everything, and a lot of the unofficial rules to email are hinged upon the opening line. The conclusion, though, can also play an important role, and almost half (46 percent) of survey respondents said they can tell a coworker’s mood based on their email greetings and sign-offs.

The Most Common Email Greetings and Sign-Offs

The survey used the name "Karen" as a filler for different email greetings and sign-offs to see which options people used and preferred the most. For greetings, a simple "Hi, Karen," was the most commonly used at 64 percent, with the more specific “Good morning/afternoon/evening Karen,” following closely behind at 54 percent, and 48 percent opt for "Hello Karen." The results show an overarching preference for a neutral middle ground between overly formal or informal greetings. (Only 19 percent chose "Dear Karen" as an introduction, and only 15 percent go for "Hey" with no name at all.)

Sign-off preferences showed a similar pattern, with most people opting for a friendly yet neutral option. The overwhelming majority (80 percent) goes for a simple "Thank you," with the slightly more casual "Thanks," coming in second at 71 percent. Nearly half (47 percent) of respondents sign off with just their name. The least commonly used sign-offs are the more formal and personal options, like "Take care," (20 percent) and "Kind regards," (16 percent).

The two most commonly used greetings and sign-offs on the list, were also the most preferred options to receive in an email, the study found.

The Worst Ways to Start and End Emails

It's not just about which email greeting or sign-off you choose, but how those choices are perceived—and whether or not the people on the other end of the email are perceiving those choices as pointed language. The survey found that an overwhelming 91 percent of employees say that the people they work with are sometimes passive-aggressive over email. However, only 37 percent of people admitted to tweaking their email language to show frustration.

So, it's important to know what cues people might be picking up on from your email greetings and sign-offs—whether you intended them or not. According to the survey responses, the email greeting that was considered most aggressive was actually no greeting at all, and the opener, "Hiya," was the second most disliked. (The greeting, "Hiya, Karen" was fourth on the list.)

The greeting that made it third on the list was using someone's name with a colon ("Karen:") to start an email. In fact, 43 percent of respondents say this type of call-out is too aggressive to ever use.

The most aggressive sign-off, similar to that of the greetings, was the option with no sign-off at all. The second on the list was the use of just your name and nothing else, and third was the sign-off, "Thanks in advance," perhaps because it's considered presumptuous.

While not quite a sign-off, nearly 2 in 3 (65 percent) of respondents want people to stop using “Sent from my phone, please excuse typos," and more than half (51 percent) say to stop using “Sent from iPhone” or similar disclaimers. 

More Unofficial Email Rules

People don't only have opinions on which email greetings and sign-offs to use, but also thoughts on how long to continue using them in a thread. Apparently, after the initial email, most people think greetings and sign-offs should disappear either immediately (32 percent) or gradually (27 percent) as the email thread continues. 

And then there's the use of extra emotion-indicators, like emojis and exclamation points. As emojis become more commonplace in all forms of communications, the opinions on whether or not they're "professional" enough in work instances seems to be shifting in their favor. While 42 percent of people say emojis are never appropriate in work emails, over half (58 percent) think they are sometimes OK. 

The use of exclamation points in emails is also a loaded conversation, since it's been shown that women tend to use more exclamation points to appear more friendly. However, the study found that respondents were someone divided on how often to use them. Almost half (48 percent) said they regularly re-read emails and remove exclamation points, while 25 percent re-read emails and add them. 

However, the "right" way to write an email can also really depend on the context of your work environment and the content of the conversation. But, when in doubt, as the survey shows, the most simple and neutral options are often your best bet.

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