» This Story:Read +|Talk +| Comments

'Best' for Last?

Or Should You Sign That E-Mail With Sincerely? Regards? Cheers? or L-, L-, Love?

(Illustration By Nancy Palm -- The Washington Post; Images Of Monitor, Beagle And Sticky Note From Bigstockphoto.com)
  Enlarge Photo    
Discussion Policy
Comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 3, 2009

It feels like the 18th century all over again. All that daily correspondence, all those long hours spent hunched over a desk, composing some thoughtful missive about one's dowry or the Jacobite rebellions. Signed, "Yr humble servant."

This Story

Same deal now, basically, except (obviously) we're not clutching quills; we're writing a passel of e-mails and clicking send on ye olde BlackBerry until our fingers bleed. And something else isn't quite the same: Unlike the heroes and heroines of epistolary novels, we aren't blessed with time-tested formal guidance on the correct way to sign off.

"Best"?

"Cheers"?

"Sincerely"?

For Daniel Morrison, CEO of the D.C.-based international relief nonprofit 1Well, the wrong sign-off posed an impediment to deeper romance. "I sent an e-mail to a girlfriend, and she was very put off by me signing off with 'Regards,' saying that I sounded very 'emotionally detached,' " Morrison says via e-mail. "We did break up shortly thereafter, so maybe she was right."

Will Schwalbe, co-author with David Shipley of "Send: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do It Better," warns, "You can really do a lot of damage, even with a careless closing. And one of the terrifying things about e-mail is: You may never know."

But you may well feel the chill.

"If you have been writing to someone 'Best' this and 'Best' that, and you get an e-mail that is a little colder, a little hostile, and they sign 'Sincerely,' that does mean things aren't so good," Schwalbe says. " 'Sincerely' is the one that says, 'There's a problem here.' "

And, one may well wonder, does "Cordially" ever mean anything other than "My hostility is only thinly veiled"?

And when, e-mail-wise, is it too early for "Love"? Does "Fondly" ever belong in business? Is "Cheers" too mock-Brit? Too alcoholic?


CONTINUED     1           >


» This Story:Read +|Talk +| Comments

More From Style

[Click Track]

Blogs

Style writers riff on pop music, comics and other topics.

[advice]

Advice

Get words of wisdom from Carolyn Hax, Ask Amy, Miss Manners and more.

[Reliable Source]

Reliable Source

Columnists Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts dish dirt on D.C.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company