Find out what business etiquette experts have to say about the expressions we use to end work-related emails.
You've just finished composing an email to a potential client you've talked with a few times before. Now for the tricky part: your sign-off. Should you use "Sincerely," "Kind regards" or "Cheers"? How do you sound friendly without coming across as unprofessional? And then there are the emails to your employees, business contacts and friendly acquaintances.
Unfortunately, there's no "email bible" to guide you. That's why we contacted two business communication experts to discuss what's appropriate. Suzanne Bates, president and CEO of Bates Communications, Inc. and author of Speak Like a CEO: Secrets For Commanding Attention and Getting Results, and Cherie Kerr, founder of ExecuProv and author of The Bliss or "Diss" Connection? Email Etiquette For The Business Professional, pair up to give expert insight into the world of e-mail correspondence.
Read on to find out what message your favourite e-mail goodbye is actually sending.
The salutation: "Thanks"
Bates: It's OK if you're actually thanking people. But keep in mind it's casual; you should know them if you're using this sign-off.
Kerr: This is one of the safest and most courteous of the salutations. It keeps it pleasant, but professional.
The salutation: "Ciao"
Bates: This isn't for business, except for fashion, art or real Italians.
Kerr: "Ciao" should only be used for close buddies or work pals. It's not appropriate for business purposes.
The salutation: "Sincerely"
Bates: Tried and true for a formal business close, and you'll never offend anyone.
Kerr: A bit too formal for e-mail. This salutation can put people off. People really expect this in a letter, not an e-mail.
The salutation: "Kind regards"
Bates: This is a great all-purpose business salutation. It may be best for people you have corresponded with in the past.
Kerr: This is one I use quite often. I like some kind of warmth, but also keep it business-like. I tend to use "Kindest regards."
The salutation: "Regards"
Bates: It's less friendly than "Kind regards," and can be a bit perfunctory, but it generally works well.
Kerr: This salutation is a little short and a little distant, but at least it's a closing message.
The salutation: "Best"
Bates: "Best" is colloquial, but fine for someone you know. "Best wishes" or "Best regards" would be better for business.
Kerr: This is another acceptable sign-off, especially if you're using it with someone yaou know really well.
The salutation: "Cheers"
Bates: Only use this sign-off for friends and business colleagues you might meet for coffee.
Kerr: You can use this with someone you know well, but if you're trying to make a business impression, this is not a great way to say goodbye when you're first doing business with someone. Save it for after having established a bond.
The salutation: "TGIF"
Bates: Never use this salutation for your boss.
Kerr: Use it for a good work buddy at clock-out time on Friday.
The salutation: "Talk soon"
Bates: Very nice for a friend, but you better mean it.
Kerr: It's a nice way to sign-off. It lets the other person know there will be phone or face time soon, and that's important and appreciated in this wacky age of e-mail. People need to talk more.
The salutation: "Later"
Bates: Not appropriate for business correspondence; it sounds like you're 14 years old.
Kerr: Only use this salutation in friendly business relationships.
The salutation: "Cordially"
Bates: It's a little old-fashioned, but not offensive.
Kerr: This is safe and pleasant and gives people a "feel good" close at the end of your e-mail.
The salutation: "Yours truly"
Bates: Excellent for formal business.
Kerr: Too formal for e-mail.
The salutation: No salutation at all -- just an electronic signature
Bates: There is a school of thought that an email is not a letter; I don't subscribe to that. I think most people come to the end of a note and expect a closing. It could come across as abrupt without one. It may also subtly say, "I'm in a hurry," "I don't know how to sign- off," or "I'm not someone who cares about niceties."
Kerr: Always use a salutation, but don't be redundant. Change it up. That makes people think you care by taking the time to "converse" with them by email.
Aside from salutations, Bates and Kerr pointed out a few other email faux pas: