Our different ways to sign off in communicating with people on email, mobile, twitter, facebook, whatsApp etc
Following traditional etiquette, if there is ‘dear sir’ or ‘dear madam’ at the top of your letter or email, then you should sign off with ‘yours faithfully’ or ‘yours truly.’
We know that the custom of signing off with ‘yours’ dates back to at least the 15th century, by studying letters from the Paston family that survive to this day. In a letter from 1426, William Paston signed off with ‘your man’.
If your letter is addressed to a specific person, whose name you can put in writing, then you should sign off with ‘yours sincerely.’
If you want to tell the recipient that you’re busy, without wasting time putting it into words, then signing off ‘v best’ is one option – it demonstrates that you’re too short of time to even type ‘very’ out in full. As Michael Rosen points out, however, the predictive text doesn’t like ‘v best’ and will convert it to ‘vest’. Rather than seeming busy, the sender can come across as obsessed with thermal wear.
Another shorthand, no frills sign off for the busy businessperson is ‘br’, meaning ‘best regards’. The problem with this option is that it can just read as if you’re rather cold. Other abbreviations – if you want to give the impression that you’re overwhelmed with work and extremely important – are ‘rgds’ (regards), ‘kr’ (kind regards), ‘yrs’ (yours) or ‘thx’ (thanks).
‘Thanks’ or ‘many thanks’ is, seemingly, a polite way to sign off an email or letter. Put a full stop at the end, however, and suddenly it’s abrupt and can sound sarcastic. ‘Thanks in advance’ can sound passive aggressive – the implication being that the recipient is about to immediately do what’s being asked of them. Similarly: ‘looking forward to your prompt reply’ or ‘yours in expectation.’
This is an informal sign off that could confuse the non-Brits amongst us. As Michael Rosen states, ‘Americans think that we say cheers about everything and they don’t know whether it means: enjoy the drink, have a good time, I’m really sorry… Cheers in a transatlantic way would just be hopeless.’ In other words, be careful not to use this one if you’re doing business stateside. The custom of signing off with ‘yours’ dates back to at least the 15th century.
Emma Gannon, author of ‘Ctrl, Alt, Delete: How I Grew Up Online’, can’t bear the sign-offs ‘warmest wishes’ or ‘warmest regards’. To her, anything with ‘warm’ in it appears too close, too cloying and overly-familiar. It’s almost as bad as receiving a ‘hi lovely’ from someone you’ve never met. Be sure you know the person well before resorting to terms of affection!
‘Peace out’ or ‘far out’ as a sign off says one of two things: I want you to know that I’m a surfer, or I’m not a surfer but I want you to think I am.
Kisses at the end of an email are all well and good if it’s a friend or family member, but should we be doing them out to those we aren’t well acquainted with – like a client, a colleague, or HM Revenue & Customs? One kiss could perhaps be forgiven, but a row is a simple no-no.
A lyric from a song or a famous quote
For friends and family, traditional sign-offs can become a little repetitive or seem a bit bland. Why not try signing off with a lyric from a song or a quote from your favourite film, tailored to the recipient. To a loved one: ‘And IIIIIIIIIIII will always love youuuuuu ooooooooo.’ Or in a resignation letter to your boss, maybe: ‘Tonight I’m gonna party like it’s nineteen ninety-nine.’
Using what’s gone before
One canny way to get around any sign off dilemmas is to mirror the language of others. Think about using the same wording in your reply as the person who sent you the email in the first place. Of course, this doesn’t work if you’re starting a new thread.
No sign off at all
It’s possible to save time, avoid any wrong signals or having to remember what you’ve used before by simply signing off with your name, and nothing else. Hillary Clinton’s leaked emails showed that they were blunt and concise, with no sign off at all most of the time. It’s certainly efficient, but is it a missed opportunity?
Why say ‘see you at the party later’ if you can send the dancing emoji, or ‘lots of love’ if you can text over a throbbing love heart? It’s not that sign-offs on text or online forums are disappearing – we’re just inventing new ones.