Friday, March 15, 2013

TTFN:  Slate's Matthew J.X. Malady thinks it's time to get rid of sign-off lines ("Regards," "Best," etc.") in emails.

I generally only include them when it comes to dealing with relative strangers, or in emails that are of a length and structure that they function as letters. Sometimes, I'll do a vestigial "--Adam" at the end of an email, but since each email address I use pretty clearly identifies me as the sender, I recognize it's likely superfluous. You?


  1. I agree. I think it depends on whom you're sending the email to. For co-workers and friends, I'll usually just go with a ...j. But with bosses or other customers, I usually go with the more formal Best or Thanks.

    I think there needs to be something at the end. We've been using the phone for 100 years, and we still say something (good bye, see ya, love you) at the end of a conversation before we hang up.

  2. I would welcome it if sign-offs were signed-off, but don't have strong feelings.

    They've always felt artificial, even in letters, but there are valid times and places for artifice. Like you, I use them with strangers or in any communication that feels more formal.

    In messages to closer friends or regular casual correspondents I reflexively seek parity with whatever sign-off they've adopted. "Regards,"? Fine. "Best,"? Fine. "Best regards,"? You protest to much, methinks, but fine. (I use "Best regards," when I send bills.) "Thanks,"? Welcome! "Later,"? Fine. Just a name? Fine. Initials. Also fine. "Warmest personal regards,"? Fine, douche-bag, but that's getting clipped to "Best," because if we're really friends we don't have to douche it up like that.

    There isn't any theory or policy operating on my end, I just want them to feel as much much formal attention as to them signifies I'm keeping up my end of the exchange.

    What I really hate is the convention of starting every formal letter with "Dear ____,". Why don't we save that for those who are dear to us instead of evacuating it of meaning by putting it on tax correspondence? I hate writing "Dear Sir or Madam" when what I mean is "To Whom it May Concern" (or, really "to whoever's job it is to read this"). If I don't even know your name or gender it is a safe bet that you are not "dear" to me except in the vague sense that all human life is precious. That's probably a George Carlin routine already, but I've felt that way since I was nine.

  3. Meghan10:19 AM

    I spend way too much time worrying about the appropriate sign-off, so I too would be fine without them. For me, it's usually "Thanks" or "Take care" though I'll sometimes throw in a "Have a good weekend," on a Friday at work if the email is in-house. If it's to a client, I go with "sincerely" or "thanks." With close friends, they sometimes get "xoxo" or "Talk soon--" I appreciate those who have the self-confidence to just go with an initial.

  4. Sheila10:22 AM

    He did bring up the phone thing at the end of the article, and said that when you're on the phone, you need something to indicate that the conversation is over and you're about to hang up. With an email, you can see the end right there, so you don't need any extra indication.

    I'm a "-Sheila" person myself, and I always gag a little at the best/cheers type signoffs. But my issue is the salutation. Do I go super formal and write "Dear XXX" or just a "Hi there" or what?

    I do think we need to at least include a name at the bottom, because I disagree with his assertion that our names are always evident from our email addresses. Maybe everyone he communicates with has an email address that includes their whole name, but I have students emailing me all the time with email addresses like "" and if they don't sign their name, I don't know who they are.

  5. I do think we need something at the end, because on more than one occasion I've accidentally sent an email before I was done typing it. It seems to happen with long emails, where I'm cutting and pasting stuff from another source, and in the going back and forth I accidentally click "send" when I meant to click "save draft." For a while people were using, "eom" at the end of messages, weren't they?

  6. I mostly use them only in very formal ("official" work emails, as opposed to day-to-day communications with colleagues) or very informal (a close friend or romantic interest - usually when it's something silly, like, "Yours in ephemeral teen movie trivia" or whatever).

    If it's an email to someone for whom I would not be their first thought when someone says "Amy" I'll sign my name. But for my friend and colleague sitting at the next desk, I assume my name on the "from:" line is enough.

    My dad cracks me up - he signs quite a few of emails to me as simply "Your Father"

  7. Jordan12:14 PM

    For about 95% of my email, both incoming and outgoing, there's nothing at the end. If it's a first contact in a while, or a somewhat formal one, there might be a "jordan" at then end. No hyphens, never capitalized. Many of my conversations flip between voice, text and email, and can go on for days, so the blurring of media kind of kills the formality of an ending.

    Also, people have no idea how to use the subject line, but that might be for another conversation.

  8. The Pathetic Earthling12:37 PM

    I think with external emails with new contacts, I go with "Best, -Andrew [signature block]"

    With recurring emails with external contacts, I go with "Best, -A [signature block]"

    Internal emails or with friends, it's usually nothing.

  9. I have a permanent signature block in my work email, and I don't see anything wrong with that. (It also includes my office address and office hours for students who might otherwise...forget to check the 10 other places that information is listed.) And totally agree that STUDENTS need to sign their emails - if the official university email addresses are bad, "rushfan2112" is even worse.

  10. Christy in Philly1:30 PM

    I tend to start emails with the person's name but without a salutation. A student has commented to me though that he reads that as cold.

    I'm a hard sell on the no sign-off though-- after fourteen years together, I still sign off multiple emails per day to my partner with both a closing and my name EVERY SINGLE TIME!

  11. isaac_spaceman2:30 PM

    My father once left a message on the answering room at my college dorm room. With names changed appropriately: "Hello, this is Abraham Spaceman, [long pause] father of Isaac Spaceman. [long pause] I am calling for Isaac Spaceman." My roommates found this funny. They also thought it was funny that my father thought I was in charge of "the waiting room" at my dorm instead of "the weight room."

  12. isaac_spaceman2:34 PM

    My friends don't get a salutation, a sign-off, or a non-automated signature unless we haven't spoken in a long time. Colleagues and close co-counsel get a "[name]--" at the beginning, and maybe a "thanks" at the end if I'm asking them for something. Outside recipients, including clients, get a "[name]--" at the beginning and a sign-off or signature at the end whose warmth is calibrated to the type of relationship we have. Asshole opposing counsel, for example, won't get a "best regards," but cooperative third parties might. The longer an email string, the more frequently I'll delete salutations, sign-offs, and signatures (in suspension of the above rules) for the sake of brevity.

  13. isaac_spaceman2:36 PM

    I feel like I need to protest this policy to your dean.

  14. Carrie7:41 PM

    If it's an answer to editor's or friend's e-mail, no sign-off required. If it's a pitch e-mail or one to a person I don't know personally, always a best or cheers as sign-off/

  15. gretchen11:51 AM

    Anything but "Cheers." Oh, I loathe the "cheers" signoff.

  16. Watts6:42 PM

    I had no idea Cheers was a problem for so many people. I've used it lots - may have to reconsider.

  17. Watts6:43 PM

    In defense of your dad - you DID get the message.

  18. Chuck3:32 PM

    At least no one puts them in these comments. -- Chuck