Ending an Email: a Lesson in Etiquette

Did you know? While it may seem like email has been around forever, it’s actually been around for about 40 years. June 8th, 1971, the first email was sent by the man credited with inventing it, engineer Ray Tomlinson. With a communication form that is forty-something, we should discuss not the content, because that’s all you, but the way to exit an email gracefully and without seeming corny, off-brand or worse, cold.

This begs the questions, is it cheesy or cheery to end an email in “Cheers”? Do you have to be British for it to land without a sense of cultural appropriation?  Can you simply end things, gracefully dropping off after your name until the next interaction, or do you have to list your jobs and accomplishments and vital stats after you say “Bye”? 

Here’s the good news: closing your emails is much simpler than you thought.

Pretty much any question having to do with emails can be answered by referring to what Will Schwalbe and David Shipley, authors ofSend: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do it Better,” call the “platinum rule”: “Do unto others as you’d think they’d want you to do unto them.”

Think about what would be most helpful to the person you’re writing. Include the basics — title, how to find you, how you wish to be identified — to save them from having to search for that information. Sign the email with what you’re actually called.
Let’s tackle the signoff: those few, important words that signal “we’re done here,” but also, “may we never truly be through” — depending, of course, on whom you’re writing and why. Since these are emails coming from your personal inbox, not a marketing email signature, it’s good to reference a few notable tactics: the behavioral principle called mirroring, delineating between audiences and remembering the tone and personality of your message. 
Mirroring is the subconscious replication of another person’s nonverbal cues, which is a way people connect and grow closer. Obviously it’s tricky to understand nonverbal cues in emails but it does work in email so long as you are sincere. 
Will Schwalbe, the author of Send, gives a great example: “If someone writes ‘Regards’ or ‘Sincerely yours,’ and you write ‘Best,’ and they stick with ‘Sincerely yours,’ and you write ‘xoxo,’ and they’re still at ‘Sincerely yours,’ you’re like, ‘They don’t like me, this is cold,’” Failing to mirror, like in this example, is like maintaining a very formal greeting regardless of what the other person says, or escalating into too-familiar territory too soon, can keep you from building a relationship. This brings us to delineating between your audiences. It’s important to craft your signoff appropriately to whomever you’re emailing, every time.  Your neighbor, for example, might not need to know the extension to get you at your desk or the address of your office; meanwhile, the accounting department doesn’t necessarily need to see an inspirational quote below all the necessary ways to get in touch with you professionally. It’s a dance and the added quotes and signoffs and, in almost all cases, extraneous and annoying. 
Remember, regardless of to whom you’re sending an email, the tone and personality matter. And extras, like “Broncos for life” or “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” tend to be more about you than the person you’re writing to, and that’s actually a big problem. Remember the platinum rule? “Do unto others as you’d think they’d want you to do unto them.”
Finally, stick with, at most, two pertinent links and some kind of contact information. Don’t use wacky fonts. And there’s never, ever any need to repeat your email address. You’re sending an email, after all. It’s already right there.

Just for kicks, I thought I’d toss in some of my personal favorites and those that made me physically cringe:

📧 A professional email that ended with “Or else”

📩 A personal email asking for financial support during a medical crisis that accidentally linked to a shared photo of the surgery instead of the GoFundMe page.

✉️ A professional email signature that included an email address that did not match the email account being used!

📫 An email signature I heard about from TV producer Shonda Rhimes: “Please Note: I will not engage in work emails after 7 p.m. or on weekends. IF I AM YOUR BOSS, MAY I SUGGEST: PUT DOWN YOUR PHONE.”

Happy mailing and happy holidays! For more funny yet poignant tips on digital marketing tactics, check out our webinars.

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