Posted by Robert Half on Friday, May 13, 2016 - 10:00 | Follow me
It is perhaps the greatest question workers face in today's digital age: How do you start and end a business email? Ask 10 professionals what the best email greeting and email sign-off is, and you'll get 11 responses. For some, you must remain formal at all times, and only Dear and Sincerely will do. For others, a simple Hey, Cheers or even Thnx are perfectly appropriate. For others still, no email greeting or sign-off is even necessary. Where do you — and should you — fall on the spectrum?
The email greeting
Many of us dash off so many emails in a day that it’s easy to consider them casual. Some certainly are — for example, sending a quick note to ask a coworker a question or putting in your lunch order for the meeting next week. In those cases, anything other than a friendly, familiar greeting would come off as ... well, weird.
But not every email is as informal, of course, and taking a relaxed attitude with each message is a big mistake. You want to be more professional when emailing someone you've worked with only a few times before, a new client or a company executive, for instance. “Treat it like a business letter,” business etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore says of work emails. When in doubt? “It’s better to be more formal than too casual,” she advises.
By being respectful in your email communications, you show the recipient that you are a competent, conscientious businessperson. This is especially important if you've yet to establish much of a connection with the person you're emailing. Your email — and your email greeting, in particular — is the first impression he or she has of you. If your email greeting is too informal or personal, it can be off-putting and give the impression that you're rushed, inattentive or sloppy.
Here’s Whitmore’s take on several standard approaches to the email greeting:
- Dear Name — The best bet for business communication.
- Hello, Name — Also acceptable but a little more relaxed
- Hi, Name — The friendliest option while still appearing professional.
- No greeting — Not recommended. Use at your own peril.
“You can hardly be wrong going too formal. But you can be dead wrong going too casual,” Whitmore says. “In the beginning, it’s better to be more formal than casual. As time goes on, and you have a relationship with a person, you can relax a bit.”
Learn more about how to design and compose emails with these four Outlook tips.
The email sign-off
Whitmore’s go-to business email closing is Best regards or All my best followed by her name. But email etiquette is not black-and-white, she says. The email greeting and email sign-off choices she uses “depend who I’m sending the email to, how well I know them and my relationship with them,” she says. The No. 1 rule, according to her, is to not be too affectionate in your email sign-off.
For someone Whitmore has an established relationship with, “the most affectionate I might get is Warm regards or Kind regards,” she says. Signing off with xoxo is entirely inappropriate for business emails.
If you’re in a creative industry or have a strong personal brand, your email closing could have more character, though. “A friend of mine writes vegan books, and she signs her emails Love and blessings,” Whitmore says. “And that’s who she is.”
For more casual email communications, you could sign off with a Cheers, Thanks, or Best. But Whitmore strongly advises steering clear of any text-like abbreviations when it comes to your email sign-off, like Tx or Thank u, no matter whom you're communicating with or how well you know them.
Now that you've mastered the email sign-off, do you know how to compose your signature? See examples of good, bad and unnecessary email signatures to learn the essential elements of this part of the email.
A cheat sheet to email greetings and sign-offs
Knowing that etiquette is so situational, it’s difficult to prescribe a one-size-fits-all email greeting and email signoff. But this chart can guide you in the right direction:
Business email greeting
Good morning, Name,
Business email sign-off
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