diamond geezer

 Thursday, October 11, 2012

Hi Reader

I'm quite good at starting emails. If it's a personal email I invariably start with Hi, even if it's the first time we've spoken. With a work email my default intro remains Dear, just to be polite, because it's best to be on the safe side. But that's only until I see evidence my recipient uses Hi instead of Dear, in which case I switch and it's Hi, Hi, Hi all the way.

It's the end of emails I struggle with. The valediction to write at the end, to sign the whole thing off, just above my name. What to use, what to say, without looking like a complete plonker?

At school I was taught to use Yours faithfully and Yours sincerely. They formed the basis of many a grammar exercise, so it's been drummed into me which should be used in each specific opening context. But they're not for emails, not unless it's something terribly formal upon which my job depends. Email endings are different.
Kind regards. I can't type this without feeling vaguely uncomfortable. It's a bit too nice, a bit sickly, and nothing I'd ever say to you in real life. Indeed if you use 'kind regards' at the bottom of your email to me, I probably wriggle a little uncomfortably and wish you hadn't.

Best regards. This is more common, isn't it? It's almost the new Yours sincerely, to the extent where I can almost imagine it being taught at school. And I do use it sometimes, but I never enjoy typing it. It's bland, I always think, and a combination of two words that's essentially meaningless.

Regards. This is the ultra-brief option, with all adjectives removed. A quick sign-off, a mere placeholder, something to get the email finished as quickly as possible. As a side issue I never know whether you're supposed to add a full stop at the end - it looks wrong with, it looks wrong without.

Best wishes. This sign-off predates email, which gives it a certain authenticity. But still no gravitas, which is why I avoid this one like the plague. It's the sort of thing an auntie would write in a birthday card, not a final phrase I'd want you to remember me by.

All the best. I like this one. I shouldn't, because it's woefully hollow, with a word seemingly missing somewhere along the way. All the best what? - it's never clear. But I think this has an optimistic ambiguity that fits well in most situations.

Take care. Whereas this one's not so good. It may be only eight letters long, but there's an unspoken hint within that something terrible is about to take place. You might as well end your email with "Watch out!" instead. It's much too negative for me, and I'd hope for you too.

Cheers. A very chummy sign-off, and almost certainly over-familiar for professional use. I suspect it appears most frequently in terse emails dashed off fast, and in replies to replies to replies. I'm guilty of this one sometimes, but only if I'm sure I know you well.

Many thanks. This one's my favourite. It's chirpy and upbeat, whilst simultaneously respectful and deferential. I'll only use it if I haven't overdone use of the word "thankyou" earlier in the email. But I like to acknowledge my appreciation of the other person's efforts, and that's always a good note to end on.
Perhaps you're an old school writer who sticks to the more formal means of sign-off. Perhaps you have a stock phrase you use all the time to conclude an email, typed out as a reflex action without thought. Or perhaps like me you change your valediction according to audience, situation or mood. I'm probably thinking too hard here, morphing my email signature solely to reflect what I think you want to hear. I might even be better off missing out the last line altogether, rather than shoehorning in some limp phrase purely for the sake of it.

Things were so much easier in the offline days of Yours sincerely and Yours faithfully. But hurrah for the freedom to end our emails how we please, even if we sometimes sound forced, cheesy or false for doing so. All the best sign off with due regard, so take care.

Many thanks.


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