10 best ways to sign off an email and 10 sign-offs to avoid and why
There are good ways and bad ways to sign-off from your emails. Here's everything you need to know to avoid a digital etiquette misstep
We receive more than 120 emails a day on average, and over the years that adds up. But despite the hours spent sending them, many of us still haven't perfected email etiquette, in particular the best way to sign off to ensure a quick response without coming off too formal, passive aggressive or old fashioned. Modern life, it's fraught.
Part of the problem is we all have different ideas about what makes the right email sign off, meaning it's difficult to craft the perfect email exit if you don't know the recipient very well or at all. Here's a few hints and tricks to guide you through the etiquette of email sign-offs.
The 10 best ways to sign-off an email
Thank you and thanks
In a survey of 2,000 people carried out by PerkBox, 46% of respondents felt a simple thank you was a good way to sign-off an email. That means you can make your digital exit with a simple "thank you" or "thanks" – though it's ideal if you actually have something to thank the recipient for.
Being thankful could help your response rate, too, according to a study by Boomerang of more than 350,000 email threads. It found that "thanks in advance", "thanks", and "thank you" all had a response rate around the 65% mark, versus 46% for emails that didn't end with an expression of gratitude – though be warned that "thanks in advance" irks many etiquette experts, as we'll see below.
Best wishes and all the best
Victoria Turk, the author of Digital Etiquette, says her preferred sign offs are simply "best wishes," "all the best," or "best". However, that Boomerang study revealed that "best regards" and "best" didn't perform as well in terms of response rates as emails ending with variations on "thanks", although they still saw an 11% and 7% boost versus the average of all messages.
Like "best," this is a popular sign-off among the etiquette experts. It's polite and formal, but still warm — and it was the top rated in the PerkBox study, with 69% of respondents saying they approved. In short, "kind regards" is a safe bet for an email sign-off.
This sign-off is a classic, thanks in part to an essay by Sadie Stein in The Paris Review, in which she recounts being enchanted by "as ever" at the end of a message from a university professor. "Immediately, it seemed to me that rare thing, an all-purpose valediction: versatile, graceful, elliptical," she wrote. "If I was writing to a loved one, the sign-off implied my affection was going strong. If I hated someone, well, it didn’t rule that out, either. It could be cool or warm, friendly or formal. Or it could be literal: I was still Sadie Stein, and there was very little arguing with that."
Whether that works for your office correspondence is up to you, of course, but you're on to a winner if you can find a sign-off that's unique to you that's still professional.
If you're replying to an email, an easy way to know how to reply is mimicking the sender's style — if they thought "best regards" worked for them, they won't be offended to hear it in return. It's a safe way to avoid any offence or confusion, but don't use it if the sender has a unique sign-off, as it may seem mocking.
Starting with a formal sign-off and switching to a more casual one is perfectly fine, but be wary of suddenly lurching back to "sincerely" or another colder exit, according to William Schwalbe, author of Send: Why People Email So Badly and How To Do It Better. “Change is important," he told Huffington Post. "If you’ve been ‘best,’ ‘best,’ ‘best’ back and forth, and all of a sudden I sent you a ‘sincerely,’ actually that means you’ve probably done something that irritates me, and I want to establish that we are not actually close."
Keep in mind the wider context, too. Tina Hayes, of the School of Etiquette and Decorum, shared sign-off ideas from colleagues at the American Association of Etiquette Professionals with the San Francisco Chronicle, revealing a nod to the strange times we currently live in could be welcome. "Take care and be safe," suggested one, while another said "stay sane and healthy".
The perfect sign-off depends on the style of your business. A professional sign-off is necessary for most of us in office situations, but your sign-off could help solidify your brand, according to business etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore. "A friend of mine writes vegan books, and she signs her emails 'love and blessings'," Whitmore says in a blog post. "And that’s who she is." Most of us can't get away with that much character at work, but if it works for your role or business, go for it.
The 10 worst ways to sign off an email
Don't be too formal
Emails aren't letters, and this isn't the 1800s. "Yours sincerely" is widely seen as too formal. If you feel like you sound like a Jane Austen character, delete and start over. The PerkBox survey ranked these three formal endings — "yours truly," "yours faithfully", and "sincerely"— among the worst email sign-off options.
This isn't the pub, don't say cheers
If you know the person you're sending the email to, you can tweak your sign-off to reflect that relationship. But if you don't know them at all or well, avoid being too casual, warns Turk, telling Ted.Com that "cheers" is an email exit to use with friends or close coworkers, but no-one else. Plus, "cheers" is generally limited to British or Australian speech, meaning others won't be accustomed to its use as a greeting.
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Don't get emotional
You may conclude an email with your mother by signing off with "love" or "xoxo", but it's no surprise that the PerkBox survey found most respondents thought that was the worst way to sign off an email. If you don't love the person, don't say you do. The next worst rated sign-off was "warmly," so avoid expressing your emotions using that term, too.
It doesn't take more effort to write "thanks" than it does to type "thx" these days, even if you're on a phone. If you can't be bothered to write those few extra letters, why should anyone take the time to read the rest of what's in your email?
The worst sign off, according to Turk, is to finish with "thanks in advance", as it's "incredibly presumptive", she tells Ted.com. "You can’t thank someone for doing something before they’ve agreed to do it," she says.
Don't be passive aggressive
Like "thanks in advance", sign-offs such as "looking forward to hearing from you" can come across as an implied demand for action. As the grammar experts at Grammarly note in a blog post, it comes off as passive aggressive – but can also put you in the waiting position, unable to act until you've heard from them. "The problem with 'I look forward to hearing from you' is that it removes you from the active role and puts you in a subservient one," the post reads. "Now, you’re just waiting passively for a response rather than moving the email thread forward, and your recipient may not even know what you want from them."
Drop the GIFs and pics
You may think a funny GIF will help your email stand out, but humour is subjective and antivirus isn't — images can trip up security software. Plus, it just means your email will take longer to load, especially if someone is on a mobile device.
The PerkBox survey showed that 44% of people thought the worst sign-off was none at all. That may work for a colleague you exchange dozens of messages with each day, but if you don't know the recipient very well, it's best to make a polite exit rather than none at all. If the best you can do is "best", that's better than nothing at all.
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