Imagine a card of condolence that was signed, “Have a good one”,  or a correspondence with a new client that signed-off, “XOXO” (I guess that could be appropriate depending on how you define “client”).  How you sign your correspondence matters, especially in modern communication where a lack of tone is compensated for via diction.  Are you compensating correctly?

How do I write an email signature that is appropriate and effective?

Everyone has communication pet-peeves.  I can’t stand “Cheers” as an email sign off.  If I’m at a pub in the UK, bring on the “Cheers,” but if I’m telling you that we failed to secure a contract with a client who generates 50% of our revenue, then “Cheers” is perhaps the wrong signature sign off. So a one-size-fits-all approach to signatures does not work.

“Yours” or “Yours Truly” are particularly creepy to me.  It sounds gushing and unrestrained.  I’m not even sure what they mean in terms of etymology—a pronoun, possessive, but what the hell does it imply?  Love? XOXO? “Warmest wishes” and “Sincerely” sound a little too lavish and familiar for professional correspondence.  I would hope you are sincere!

My personal taste aside, is it possible to establish rules for signing an email?  This has been debated in email etiquette guides, Bloomberg, Forbes and even in the New York Times in their lambasting of “best” (which, I think it worth noting, has been my go-to for years, until now).  In my opinion, below are the 3 best email signature options that I’ve come across in my 8 years of communicating in a corporate environment with both clients and vendors.

3 Examples of Professional Email Signature Techniques

Mirroring

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It’s 6 p.m. on a Friday, and you need to send out one last message before you can get home to your family.  You are panicking and agonizing over your email signature.  If the recipient of your pending email made first contact, then you are in luck!  If they make first contact, an emailing technique for the uncertain is mirroring.  A “Sincerely” gets a “Sincerely.”  A “Have a good one” gets a “I hope you have a good one as well.”  Use a bit of logic and reason, but for the most part, if you are stuck and unsure, then mirroring can be an effective technique.

The Buried Sign Off

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My best piece of advice—the buried sign off.  Generally, this one works best by either ending with acknowledgement of a point in sender’s note, or ending with further instruction.  Here are a few examples.  These would be the last line of your email, and then you can simply sign your name.

“I look forward to seeing you at the closing tomorrow.”
 “Kindly review and advise by return email if approved.  If a copy of a specific invoice is needed, please let us know.”  
“If payment was overlooked, we appreciate your assistance in bringing your principal’s account up to date with us.”
“We really appreciate your order and are excited to serve you.”

This method not only eliminates the uncertainty of the sign-off, but it eliminates the space-wasting of platitudes, lets the sender know you are addressing the issues, and advises further instruction.

No Sign-Off at All

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I like Bloomberg Businessweek’s advice from their article “You’re Ending Your Emails all Wrong”:

“Nothing. Don’t sign off at all. With the rise of Slack and other office chatting software, e-mail has begun functioning more like instant messaging anyway. “Texting has made e-mail even more informal than it is,” Pachter says. In conversations with people we know, complimentary closings have started to disappear. Tacking a best onto the end of an e-mail can read as archaic, like a mom-style voice mail. Signoffs interrupt the flow of a conversation, anyway, and that’s what e-mail is. “When you put the closing, it feels disingenuous or self-conscious each time,” Danzico argues. “It’s not reflective of the normal way we have conversation.” She ends all her e-mails, including professional ones, with the period on the last sentence—no signoff, no name, just a blank white screen.”

Maybe that’s why our favorite movies fade to black and leave us wanting more.  Maybe that’s why sometimes the most impromptu conversations with people whose names we never learn—in passing on the subway, at the park, in the frozen food aisle—leave the largest impacts.  Perhaps less is more when saying goodbye, but it can’t be downplayed in modern communication where a lack of tone is compensated for in diction.

In the professional realm, just keep it simple, but not too simple.  Use logic in your sign-off.  Don’t sign “Thanks” if there is no reason to give thanks—just like you wouldn’t sign “Have a good weekend” on a Tuesday email.  The three tips for writing email sign-offs that I’ve mentioned should provide a good guide, but it is all relative—go with your gut.

Yours truly, or have a good one, or xoxoxo,

Ryan R. Latini