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A recent humorous article about “killing the email signoff” filled me with a sense of relief as I came to the realization that I am not alone in my agonizing deliberation about email signoffs. I have spent way too much time, and thought way too deeply, about the appropriateness of signoffs and what meaning the signoff I was using conveyed. Using the signoffs “best,” “regards,” or “sincerely” often left me feeling empty and entirely insincere and signoffs such as “cheers,” or my all-time least favorite “ciao,” left me feeling fake, cheesy or unnecessarily pompous. Working in the context of the military makes the whole process much easier as everybody simply signs off V/R (surprise an acronym!), Very Respectfully, even if you have absolutely no respect for the person that you are emailing.
So I often just revert to “thanks,” but then am left wondering what I am thanking the person for. More often than not I just go with nothing and wonder if the person on the other end thinks I’m being rude.
As the article states, signoffs are a relic of actual letter writing (yes those pieces of paper that you put a stamp on and mailed) which was much more infrequently done and thus carried much more value and meaning than the multiple emails we send and receive daily. So if you receive an email without a signoff, don’t take it personal, it’s just part of a long overdue cultural shift.
Google has recently unveiled a new form of email communication entitled Gmail Motion that may just sweep you off of your feet, literally. This new method of maneuvering through your inbox, writing emails, and updating settings enables you to stand up from your desk and “speak” to your Gmail account using your whole body as a keyboard.
Gmail Motion is still in its beta phase, and I, for one, am curious about the learning curve involved in becoming proficient in this new language. Even if the new system works for some and not all applications, anything that encourages workers to move more during the day is just fine in my book.
Consider how you open and close an email today compared to how you may have ten years ago. Do you start out strong, addressing the recipient by name, or begin more respectfully, showcasing your knowledge of old-English phraseology?
In his dissection of this simple, yet valuable subject, James Morgan explains that what we may have considered business-appropriate language years ago may seem overly intimate or unprofessional today. This sentiment strikes me as ironic, seeing as the “Hey” we resort to nowadays is just about the most casual way in which we could begin a corporate relationship.
So how do we seem genuine, professional, yet approachable at the same time? It simply depends on the situation. Some say “Dear” should be used when addressing problems or beginning a new professional association through email, given its old-fashioned, sincere connotation. However, lately even the most subdued professionals have been going with a more laid-back greeting, beginning correspondence with “Hey Folks” or no subject line at all.
The closer presents a similar conundrum. Your signature statement can be sincere and uber-professional or casual and conversational, depending on the nature of your business. What is paramount to remember in this situation is what every English 101 teacher tells their pupils on the first day of class: First and foremost, consider your audience. If we become familiar with the email recipient’s expectations we can best choose words that accommodate their style while maintaining our own.