The e-handshake

With email dominating our screens, sign-offs can be as valuable as the content. 

Sincerely. Yours truly. Kind regards. Best. Cheers!

They not only close our correspondence with a specific tone, but they also offer a hint of the sender’s “electronic mood” — at least while he or she was typing the email.

I tend to view salutations as today’s modern handshake, and in hospitality or any business, handshakes have become a lost art — or at least the opportunity to share one has — which makes this week’s trend a unique yet important one to examine.

Salutations can be tricky, and like any trend, they do change. Although we have graduated from the casual days of “TGIF” or “Talk soon,” putting thought into email sign-offs and differentiating your personal style from your business style is more important than ever due to the electronic manner in which most of us communicate.

As an example, let’s say you’ve just finished composing an email to a potential client. You want to conclude with a warm tone, yet the tried-and-true “Sincerely” or “Yours truly” sound too formal or better meant for a letter.

A few years ago “All my best” popped up on the salutation scene, and like many trends, entered mainstream waters, causing an abbreviated version — “Best” — to start showing up.  Shortly thereafter, the single word was being tagged with “wishes” or “regards,” which sent the salutation into dangerous waters, “dating” it and eventually sending it on its merry way outside of the electronic communication world.

Additional options such as “Fondly,” don’t exactly belong in business, and the vaguely British “Cheers” works for friendly and casual acquaintances but rarely should or does it appear in business emails. My own personal fallback, “Thanks,” feels blandly safe, and honestly, unless I have something to be thankful for, it makes little if any sense especially in the phase of courting a potential client.

Closing salutations are a personal decision, but my choice for an all-purpose business close — while it is not creative — projects a feel-good, pleasant sign-off: “Cordially” or “Kindest regards.” Both have a sense of warmth while still remaining business-like. Yes, a bit old-fashioned, but periodically a touch of beige isn’t all bad.

What salutation are you most often using in your business emails? And what sign-offs have you personally placed into your pet-peeve column?