What Your Email Sign-off Really Means

3 min read

As more folks are working from home or just in different locations from co-workers, digital communications are overtaking face-to-face interactions. But no matter how polite, direct, succinct, or friendly the message might be, there's always the chance of textual misunderstandings. Or maybe it's not even a misunderstanding, and email is the perfect place to let some feelings out, albeit under the radar.

What better place to display your true feelings than in your email sign-off? Whether it's sharing your out-of-office interests through favorite quotes or song lyrics, or even using certain language to add nuance to your request, the sign-off may be sending messages you didn't even realize.

Song Lyrics

Before you drop a few favorite verses into your signature template, think about what it's really saying. Quoting the Rolling Stones, "You can't always get what you need" might imply a "no" will be the answer to any request. Conversely, Jimmy Buffet's "Margaritaville" could get coworkers not taking you seriously. It might be 5 o'clock somewhere, but you're still on the clock.

Best

"Best" is not a blue ribbon in email — it's a cold sign-off. Chillier than “best wishes” or “all the best,” it definitely does not imply that you’re wishing anyone the best. "Best" says, “I’m done here, even if you’re not.” It’s a small step up from no sign-off at all, and if the person on the other end is at all perceptive, they’ll know to stop bothering you.

Thank you

Not quite passive aggressive as "best," "thank you" still has a rigid expectation attached. It’s a holdover of a college student emailing their professor for a last-minute extension they may or may not actually receive. If you're expressing thanks for a job well done, send that gratitude with a meaningful message, not necessarily in the sign-off. And definitely avoid "thanks in advance" unless you want to get your request pushed to the bottom of the pile.

I look forward to hearing from you

Same as "thanks in advance," this phrase is putting the burden on the recipient. Whether it’s true or not, it implies that a response is required. It’s more of a demand than a pleasant salutation.

Fondly

Be careful with emotionally charged sentiments in work correspondence, because they can come off as snarky or sarcastic. Maybe you have a work bestie, but you’re probably sending them GIFs over chat, rather than signing off with a fond farewell.

Kind regards

Almost as brusque as "best," "kind regards" is anything but. It says “I’ve got better things to do” and gives the distinct impression that a very important game of Candy Crush was interrupted  for this.

I hope this answers your question

"I know I answered your question, and if you’ve got more questions after this, you didn’t read my whole email. Read it again. Actually, you probably shouldn’t have asked me in the first place."

Maybe the intent isn't to come across this irritated, but that's how that phrase can be misinterpreted.

Don’t hesitate to reach out

"Please hesitate to contact me ever again."

Again, maybe not the intent, but these lengthy send-offs leave a lot of room for interpretation. To schedule a follow-up or allow for questions, state that in the body of the email. Don't let a message get lost in the signature.

Love

"Oops! I’m on autopilot, and I just sent a quick note to my wife about dinner tonight, and I haven’t quite switched gears. Just pretend like you didn’t see that, and we’ll all move on with our day."

What is the correct email signature?

KISS — Keep it simple, silly. Include all the necessary information in the body of the email, and then let the email program do the work with a signature template of your name and title. Optional information can include anything that would show up on a business card, such as address, phone number, and possibly licensing or certifications. MAYBE a company logo.

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