Your emails may be backfiring on you.
According to a spate of recent sound-offs from business protocol experts, email etiquette is evolving; increasingly, sign-offs that used to be considered perfectly appropriate are now, for various reasons, viewed as insulting or elitist.
Here’s how to avoid being on the wrong end of the new email sign-off trend.
Circa 2003, “best” was considered a weird way to sign off on an email; a University of Pennsylvania study from that year found that only 5 percent of emailers used that in their signature. Today, “best” has become almost ubiquitous, but etiquette experts have begun to warn against using it.
Journalists, bloggers and etiquette experts are beginning to crack down on “best,” or even the more effusive “all my best,” calling it pallid and charmless, among other things. “A few years ago, best seemed kind of uncaring—like turning your shoulder to the person without thinking,” says Liz Danzico, the creative director at NPR, who occasionally blogs about e-mail communication. “Now, it’s like a virus.”
Cheers may sound cheerful, but not to everyone. “Elitist,” a Bloomberg business writer hissed recently.
Here’s some good news: Etiquette sticklers are actually lightening up when it comes to emojis. Why? The demographics in workplaces are getting younger. And people of all ages are beginning to see the benefit of a shorthand way to denote a joke or sarcasm.
“Kind regards” may feel stuffy and woefully outdated, but etiquette experts still like it as a sign-off. The reason: It’s always better to err on the side of formality. After all, remember: Your work emails are probably admissible in court.
Among business etiquette types and brand listeners, the current stance on “best wishes” is pretty much the same as Kind Regards:. It’s formal, and it’s old-fashioned, but it’s safe. If you’re not a born wordsmith, go ahead and keep using Best Wishes, especially if you’re communicating with someone you don’t know very well.
An old colleague of ours used to sign off his emails with quotes from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. His emails always came off as wise, strong, strategic ... and memorable. Got a quote that you love? As long as it’s not too dippy, give it a shot. After all, “Excelsior” never hurt Stan Lee.
Increasingly, etiquette experts say, co-workers see email not as a replacement for the written memo of yore, but rather as an extension of texting.
And you know how people sign off on a text? They don’t. Next time you’re struggling to craft that perfect email sign-off, don’t. Chances are, no one will notice.