Email has made communication in the office easier but at the same time, it can be tricky when recipients misinterpret the approach or tone of a message. Although autocorrect and automated replies may have been developed with the best intentions, it only takes one unintended tap to send off a poorly written email that gets misconstrued by a VIP.
According to one study by Boomerang, a Mountain View, California-based email software company, there appears to be a difference between email closings, with some activating higher responses than others. Emails ending with some variation of gratitude, whether that was "Thanks in advance" or "Thank you" tended to trigger a reply around 60% of the time rather than "Best" or "Regards," which only inspired a return message in around 50% of analyzed emails.
We asked three career experts for their tips on writing a solid email closer and how to keep your written correspondence professional at all times.
Do: Be genuine.
Career coach Regan Walsh emphasizes that your email closer should “be authentic to you as a person and authentic to your business.”
Walsh’s personal signoffs are tailored for her business. “One of those is ‘Rooting for you' because I am always supporting my clients … it’s really become synonymous with me as a coach. People see that and they think of me,” she told TODAY.
“The other signoff that I use, which is authentic to my business and my work, is ‘Looking forward’ because I’m looking forward to collaborating with somebody, to meeting with them, to putting on an event for them, whatever it is,” she added.
Don’t: Write a novel.
“It can feel like the wild, Wild West out there … I think what email shouldn’t do is include 10 paragraphs with 10 different action items because that gets lost on people. It’s overwhelming. People will either ignore it, forget about it, or it will turn into this email blitz that can take away time and money from your business and you don’t want to do that,” Walsh said.
The key is “to find the balance between being yourself and keeping it professional,” according to Catherine Fisher, a LinkedIn career expert. She added, “If your note is on the longer side, with complex information that requires a lot of focus, perhaps an in-person meeting followed by an email recap is the better path forward.”
Do: Be specific.
Kristen David, an entrepreneurial business and career expert, has a simple mantra to keep your email closer productive. “Always close with who should do what, when … You should acknowledge the person but then always conclude with something like ‘Great, I look forward to hearing from you by 4 p.m. on Friday.’”
Walsh says to skip formatted signatures and boilerplate templates that don’t make sense with the messages you’re sending to clients or staff. Fischer added, “Avoid anything too formal like ‘Sincerely’ or ‘Respectfully,’ or too casual like XX or with your first initial. Opt for signoffs like ‘Best’ and ‘Thanks’ that strike the right balance.”
Don’t: End with a joke.
David cautions against using jokes that can quickly fall flat or worse, offend anyone who’s reading your message. Consider your audience and make sure you’re adding value to the conversation or pointing out a specific connection so the reader knows what you’re talking about and can respond accordingly.
Do: Be kind.
Because you’re human, mistakes can happen. You may forget to respond to an email or hit "reply all" and accidentally email all 50 people on a long email chain. “When snafus like this arise, don’t make excuses. Instead, simply acknowledge the error in the moment and move on — everyone else will, too,” recommends Fisher.
Above all, Walsh advised, “Be kind, always, with communication. Anything negative, anything that feels like you are attacking a person or being negative, let’s just go ahead and remove that from our lives, be human and show people some respect.”
Don’t: Forget that email is permanent.
David also offered one crucial reminder, saying, “As a former lawyer, I would be remiss not to mention that it does exist somewhere forever. Just like a text message, we think of it as a fleeting thought but it’s actually visible and so don’t write something your mother wouldn’t want to read.”