Have you ever received a SHOUTY email? I’m guessing you have. How did it make you feel?
My first encounter with SHOUTY emails was when I was just 18. During the summer break from university, I took a temporary assignment as an administrator at a commercial garage. When I wasn’t tackling the filing of a mammoth pile of oil-stained service records, I was allowed to jump on the computer and do some exciting data entry work (I’m not being sarcastic, it was incredibly exciting at the time!). I had access to a mailbox where all the data was held, and one woman consistently sent me SHOUTY emails. I’d never met the person, but I immediately disliked her because her capitalised messages made me feel angry. I put her emails to the bottom of my to-do list.
I later found out that she SHOUTED at everyone, not just me. It transpired that she permanently had her caps lock on her keyboard because it was a requirement of the software she used in her role.
But she could easily have taken the caps lock off…
A little thought about the recipient and the way it might make them feel could have changed my perception of her. The same amount of thought should be applied to signing off an email.
To me, an inappropriate or missing sign off on your email leaves you with a similar feeling to leaving the supermarket checkout without the assistant wishing you a nice day, or reaching the end of a novel and finding out the last paragraph is poorly-written. That feeling of a bitter taste in your mouth. I believe you should take the same amount of care and attention with closing an email as you would concluding a report or presentation for that person.
There are no hard and fast rules
When I started researching this blog, I turned to Google to find out if there were some kind of rules around closing emails. Unfortunately there aren’t. It’s a very subjective business.
Start with your reader in mind
I used to write a lot of content for a chief executive and had to email him documents for approval. Following some friendly advice from his PA, I quickly learnt that ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ were key words for this reader. No pleasantries were needed at the start of the email. Get straight to the point, ask nicely, and sign off with a ‘thank you’.
Considering your recipient and the content of the message you’re sending will help you to create the right sign off. For example, if you’re meeting with the person that week, use ‘Look forward to seeing you on Thursday’. If that person has to cancel a meeting due to illness, try ‘Hope you feel better soon’. Personalising your sign off can build relationships.
How friendly are you with the recipient?
If you’d say ‘Cheers’ to someone in person, then it’s probably ok for you to write it in an email to them. For potential clients or people you’re not that familiar with, then I’d suggest this as one to avoid.
One size does not fit all
It’s tempting to solve the problem of signing off by adding a standard response to your email footer. ‘Kind regards’ and ‘Regards’ are classic examples. Really, that’s the lazy way out. One sign off does not suit all audiences. Would you close a phone call in the same way to your colleague, your accountant and a potential customer?
Cutting it short is not ok
It’s inevitable that we’re now seeing an increasing amount of text speak sneaking into our business emails. But the following are definitely not acceptable: Rgds; KR; CU l8r; Tks. You may disagree with me, but I consider them to be lazy and abrupt. If you’re going to write ‘Regards’ or ‘Thanks’, take the time to write it out in full and show your recipient that you value their time reading your message.
Create a lasting impression
We all receive so many emails these days, it’s all too easy to become blasé about writing them. A sign off is a lasting impression, one that could potentially make or break a business relationship.
Treat them like any other form of business communication - take care with your language and take time to consider how it will make the recipient feel.
Above all, sign off appropriately and you won’t find yourself at the bottom of someone else’s to-do list, like SHOUTY woman.
I’m taking a stand to put the etiquette back into emails. If you’d like to join me in my crusade or share your own examples of cringeworthy closes you’ve received, I’d love to read them in the comments below.