Writing an email isn’t so hard, but figuring out how to sign off can be a real challenge.
Is “cheers” too casual? Too pretentious? Too British? Is “sincerely” timeless and professional, or stodgy and overly formal?
Perhaps, as Matthew J.X. Malady persuasively argued at Slate, we should just call the whole thing off and ditch the email closer altogether.
But as anyone who has sat staring blankly at a screen, weighing “best” vs. “all best” vs. “all the best” knows, not signing off doesn’t feel quite right, either — especially if the context is professional. Ending the note abruptly can make you seem rude.
So, if we accept — at least for the moment — that email sign-offs are here to stay, the question becomes which one to use, and in what contexts to use it.
We had experts weigh in on 25 common email closings. Here are the ones they say to avoid in most situations — and which one to use when you’re just not sure.
Sign-offs to avoid:
‘TTYL,’ ‘TAFN,’ etc.
Avoid slang and acronyms, like TTYL (“talk to you later”) or TAFN (“that’s all for now”). These are unprofessional and confusing.
‘Peace out’ or ‘Later’
These are way too informal for work-related communications.
This is inappropriate at work. Even if you’re friendly with the person you’re emailing, skip it.
‘xx’ or ‘xoxo’
“Absolutely not,” business etiquette expert Barbara Pachter tells Business Insider. It’s just not professional.
But Will Schwalbe, who co-authored ” SEND: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do It Better” with David Shipley, says that it has become “remarkably accepted even in casual (very casual) business correspondence.” That said, it’s best to only use in reply to someone else who is already using. Don’t initiate.
“I never understood this one,” Aliza Licht, author of the career guide ” Leave Your Mark,” tells Business Insider. “‘Yours’ what?”
If you are going to use it, though, Schwalbe says that it’s one of the more formal options, though it’s not quite as formal as “sincerely.”
Licht says it strikes her as “fake.”
“I always assume it’s going to be a marriage proposal,” Pachter says. Don’t use it.
— [your name]
Licht and Schwalbe agree that it’s “cold” and “abrupt.”
[nothing at all]
As we mentioned earlier, not signing an email at all can feel weird. Although, it’s “absolutely fine as a chain progresses,” Schwalbe says.
Pratcher agrees, saying once a conversation is underway, she approves of getting rid of both the salutation and the close.
Sign-offs that are fine — but not the best:
‘Thanks’ or ‘Thanks again’
“Fine if it’s for a favor the person has done, but obnoxious if it’s a command disguised as premature gratitude,” Schwalbe says.
Licht agrees. It “comes off as not really that thankful,” she says. While it doesn’t particularly bother Pachter, the consensus is that you can probably do better. Skip.
“Is this a cover letter? Because otherwise, no,” says Licht.
“Very formal, and could seem cold if it follows more intimate sign-offs,” Schwalbe says.
But Pachter feels that it all depends on the opening salutation. If you began with “dear,” then “sincerely” is appropriate, she says.
“Hate, hate, hate,” says Licht, though she says that she hates the supposedly more casual abbreviated version — “Rgds” — even more. “It’s like you’re so busy you can’t even spell it.”
Schwalbe, however, doesn’t mind it.
“Nice,” he says, noting that it’s “a little formal.” Think of it as the equivalent to the “warm” family, he says.
Totally fine, they agree — assuming you’re actually going to see that person in the near future. Otherwise, skip it.
The more casual cousin of “speak with you soon,” this one follows pretty much the same rules as its relative. If you actually will be talking soon, it’s fine — though Licht isn’t sold on it. If you don’t actually plan to talk soon, it’s insincere.
“You are committing yourself to a second reply,” Schwalbe cautions. “Do you really want to do that? Or should you just take a moment and answer the thing properly right now?”
Licht feels even more strongly. “Promises can be forgotten,” she says. “Under-promise, over-deliver.”
‘Warmly’ or ‘Warmest’
A fan of the whole “warm” family, Schwalbe thinks that “warmly” is less formal than “sincerely,” but a little more formal than the whole “best” family. Pachter likes it, too.
Licht, however, is unimpressed. “Snorefest,” she says.
“It’s fine,” Pachter says, though she’s not sold on it.
To Licht, it seems “pretentious, unless you’re actually British.”
Schwalbe suggests a test: Would you say it to people in person? If so, go for it. If not, skip.
“A little stiff,” Schwalbe says. “Also, it brings to mind, for people of a certain age, Diana Ross singing ‘Upside Down.'”
Unless you’re addressing the US president, Licht says it’s too formal.
If you do happen to be addressing POTUS, though, you’re on the right track. A variation — “respectfully yours” — is the standard close for addressing government officials and clergy, Pachter says.
Read more: 36 things you should never say to your boss
‘Looking forward to hearing from you’
A minefield of power dynamics, this one is “a bit presumptuous but fine if you are doing a favor for someone,” Schwalbe says.
It’s not fine, however, if you’re the one asking.
Plus, as Licht points out, it puts you in a “subservient position where you can’t take action but must wait for the other person’s cue.”
All three experts agree that “best” is among the safest possible choices — inoffensive and almost universally appropriate.
So when in doubt, go with “best.”
Rachel Sugar contributed to a previous version of this article.