At the End of an Email, Everyone’s a Valedictorian
by Caity Weaver
Like most people, you probably stress over your choice of email sign-off more than most people. Everybody calm down. Here’s a guide to help you navigate this treacherous channel of email etiquette:
The first thing to know is that this sign-off (the closing word or words at the end of your missive) is more properly called a “valediction.” Derived from the Latin vale “goodbye” + dicere “to say,” it’s the opposite of a salutation. Now that you’re feeling fancy, we can get down to brass tacks. There are four classes of commonly used valedictions: nouns, adverbs, superlatives, and phrases.
When you’re feeling aloof: “Regards”
Ending your message with a bare noun like this shows you to be calm, collected, and a little bit bitchy. These regards aren’t particularly good. These regards aren’t particularly bad. These are just some regards that happen to exist, like a point in mathematical space.
Alternatives: “-[Your name]”
When you’re feeling boring: “Best”
If valedictions were a designer collection for Target, “Best,” would be the black tanktop tucked in the rear of the display. It works well enough for just about everyone, but you’re not really trying, are you? Live a little. Add some jazz.
When you’re feeling affectionate: “Warmest”
Oh, God, wouldn’t that just make you smile, seeing that at the end of an email? I stole this from a professor of mine, and it’s become my standard when corresponding with casual acquaintances. While conveying essentially the same sentiment as “Best,” “Warmest,” feels more personal because it’s less widely used. You risk coming across a little strongly if you use this one with strangers, though, so save your warmest for people you at least kind of like.
Alternatives: “Warmly,” “Yours,” “You are worthy of love”
When you’re feeling British: “Cheers”
Do not use this unless your native dialect is a variety of British English. You will look like a tosser.*
Alternatives: “Pip pip,” “Cheerio,” “Pip pip cheerio”
When you’re a second grader writing a formal letter to your pen-pal: “Sincerely”
Odds are you aren’t writing this email just to fuck with someone. Imply sincerity with the body of your message and you needn’t underscore it in the closing.
When you’re writing to Lord Voldemort: “I beg to remain, Sir, your most humble and obedient servant”
Who are you? Sit down, you’re embarrassing me.
When you’re feeling rly kewl: “ttyl”
Don’t use this.
When the stress of selecting an appropriate valediction gives you shingles: “Sent from my Blackberry”/”Sent from my iPhone”
If you want a way around this whole valedictory business, consider cheating and making “Sent from my [smartphone of your choice]” your default email signature. Much as the “in training” badge I wore for the entirety of my employment at a Marshalls department store one summer deflected heat from irate customers, so does the inclusion of this at the end of your email give you a pass on brevity, typos, and general basic English mistakes your shouldn’t be making in the first place because have some respect for yourself, please. (Keep in mind that recipients will see through this ruse if the rest of your email is 20 paragraphs long and perfectly formatted.)
Alternatives: This is a chance for you to pretend to have the smartphone of your dreams. Don’t be afraid to make something up! “Sent from my Talaria.” “Sent from my EnVoyer.” “Sent from my iBox.”
When you’re feeling too cute for words: “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”
Alternatives: None needed. You’ve reached the pinnacle.
Previously: State Flag Trivia.
Caity Weaver is available for hire as a personal email consultant, or as anything, please, please hire her.