The Worst Business Email Sign Offs (10 Examples)
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Every so often you’ll receive an email message that doesn’t end quite right. It’s usually because the way the email ending has been written is confusing, contradictory, awkward, or just plain rude.
Email closings, or sign offs, are crucial to communicating via this medium, but not everyone knows how to do it right. We’ve pulled together a rogue’s gallery of the worst business email sign offs to steer clear of.
Why are business email sign offs important?
Emails have to end somehow, and just as with letters and other business correspondence, it’s essential to do that professionally.
- Signing off tells the reader where the end of the message is. People are busy, and with lots of text to read, it can be hard to see where the message finishes. A business email sign off serves as a handy wayfinding tool.
- Your email sign off is your chance to make a good parting impression. First impressions certainly count, but they aren’t the only kind. Your business email sign off acts as the last thing your correspondent remembers about your interaction.
- Business email sign offs are good email etiquette. If mammals and birds can master the art of greeting one another with “hello” and “goodbye” then it can’t be too much to ask when writing the end of an email. We do it because it’s expected.
- The subliminal message behind business email sign offs is gratitude and respect. Emails have naturally inherited some of the mores of letter writing, and we see traces of that in more formal message endings like ‘yours sincerely’ and ‘regards.’ In a professional context, email sign offs are a small way of reiterating the respect you have for the individual you’re communicating with and that you are grateful to them for reading your message.
What makes a bad business email sign off?
When considering how to end an email, it’s worth being aware of the major pitfalls first (listed below). They all share a unifying theme: a failure to look at it from the reader’s perspective. Bad business email sign offs almost exclusively come about when the people who write them don’t consider how their audience might interpret them.
Email sign offs that are inappropriate
Some behavior is just inappropriate, like talking loudly at a movie theater or taking a phone call during a private meeting. Problematic business email signs are typically too informal, too intimate, or too comical. The effect makes the recipient feel uncomfortable and questions the sender’s professionalism.
Email signs that fail to appreciate the context in which they are received
Some business email sign offs can appear thoughtless. That’s likely because the sender always uses the same words to sign off an email, even when – on reflection – they should have been changed to something else. These instances can be harmful when something jovial can be misconstrued as insensitive or antagonistic. For example, when contacting a customer to sympathize with the tragic loss of their partner to alcoholism, and then ending the message with a standard “Cheers!”
Email sign offs that spread confusion
Another subcategory of bad business email sign offs are the ones that confuse because they don’t make sense. That might be because they’ve been created without adequate care and are incoherent or spelled incorrectly.
Often it’s because the signatory created a ‘stock’ email sign off that they like but makes sense to them and people with the same precise knowledge of sports teams, song lyrics, TV quotes, and personal in-jokes. Star Trek fans may delight in signing emails off with “Make it so!” (the catchphrase of Captain Jean-Luc Picard), but – depending on the context – some people could interpret that as aggressive or nonsensical.
How to choose the right business email sign off
Knowing how to end an email comes down to avoiding the pitfalls above and being prepared to personalize each message in a horses-for-courses approach. A good tip is to decide on a few go-to phrases you can rely upon for most of your correspondence while leaving the door open to freestyle where appropriate.
The fundamental rules here are:
- Understanding your audience
- Appreciating the context in which your message will be received
- Avoiding the trap of looking at business email sign offs as a performative opportunity
10 of the worst business email sign offs we’ve seen
When considering how to sign off an email, steer clear of the examples below – and others like them.
Hasta la vista, baby
Pop culture references, like this Schwarzenegger one from the Terminator movies, can be risky when used to sign off business emails. You’re likely to repel people who don’t enjoy the same entertainment as you or confuse those that have no idea what you’re talking about.
Many bad business email sign offs emerge from individuals who forget that email is not a real-time conversation and that interlocutors can neither read verbal intonations nor hear that funny voice you’re using. This is one of those.
Genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration
Famous quotes are another kind of cultural reference, and they’re an equally bad idea for the reasons given above. If you are going to inspire your correspondent, or enhance your professional standing by using someone else’s sage words of wisdom, then it probably works better designed into the email signature rather than as a sign off. Without that kind of separation, it’s going to sound preachy in the context of closing a professional email message.
There are other similarly bad email sign offs in this category like “yawn” or “who cares?” They’re not typically deployed for rudeness, but rather to be sardonic. It’s a case of using the email sign off as an amusing social commentary on email sign offs. This is way too meta. It isn’t big, and it isn’t clever.
This kind of sign off happens when a desire for informality meets the need to be jokey or ironic. Neither is a good idea unless the recipient is in on the joke.
Credit where credit’s due; this email sign off is written as a sound effect, demonstrating creativity and proving memorable to the recipient. But would it work as intended in every context in which the sign off is used?
For example, it could work great for a veterinarian to send an email to colleagues announcing that their practice earned record revenue this month. Not so great when the same person messages colleagues about mistakes made when unnecessarily euthanizing healthy pet dogs.
Another example of creative yet ill-advised business email sign offs are emoticons – miniature pictures drawn by typing out sequences of textual characters. The example here is a cheerleader. “Yay!” But did you know it was a cheerleader before you read that explanation? And is a little cheerleader emoticon the most appropriate way to sign off your business emails?
Blessings of the day
Email sign offs like this might convey a kind-hearted sentiment, but anything with a religious overtone will needlessly make some of your audience feel excluded. There’s plenty of scope to express your personal beliefs and identity in a professional setting, but the business email sign off probably isn’t the best place to start.
Here’s another subset of bad business email sign offs we can file under “needlessly jokey.” The person sending it is clearly bored by the medium and seeks to add some zaniness to affairs. Do you know those real people who actually behave like characters in The Office?
The temptation is too great for them to sign a professional email off sensibly (the same tiresome folk will say things like “ex-squeeze-me” instead of “excuse me”). The comedy value of this particular example is a solid zero, and that’s before you consider how it might be received by – for example – a business contact with a speech impediment.
Hugs, kisses, and love don’t belong in a professional email sign off. And especially not daisy chains of xxxx or xoxoxo. These lousy business email sign offs encourage or hint at a degree of intimacy that’s unlikely to exist. It’s more likely to make the recipient uncomfortable, even if that wasn’t the intention.
No sign off at all
Skipping the business email sign off altogether is a missed opportunity to provide a parting, lasting impression on your terms. It also makes the message feel more abrupt and careless.
When it comes to signing off an email, you need to make sure that you close out the conversation in the correct way. The business email sign offs highlighted in this guide should be avoided if you want to come across as professional. If you want to find out what you should use instead, check out our ultimate email sign offs guide.
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