Writing an email isn't so hard, but figuring out how to sign off can be a real challenge.
Is "cheers" too casual? Too pretentious? Too British? Is "sincerely" timeless and professional, or stodgy and overly formal?
Perhaps, as Matthew J.X. Malady persuasively argued at Slate, we should just call the whole thing off and ditch the email closer altogether.
But as anyone who has sat staring blankly at a screen, weighing "best" vs. "all best" vs. "all the best" knows, not signing off doesn't feel quite right, either — especially if the context is professional.
"Not closing seems way too abrupt," business etiquette expert Barbara Pachter tells Business Insider. "If you have a salutation, you should have a closing to balance it out."
And manners aside, the email close serves a practical function. It helps "define the personality of the email's content," says Aliza Licht, author of the career guide "Leave Your Mark."
It's also an opportunity to define or redefine your relationship to your correspondent, Schwalbe adds. (A shift from "love" to "best," for example, indicates you may have a problem.)
If we accept — at least for the moment — that email sign-offs are here to stay, the question becomes which one to use, and in what contexts to use it.
We had Pachter, Schwalbe, and Licht weigh in on 28 common email closings. Here are the ones they say to avoid in most situations — and which one to use when you're just not sure.
This is an update of a story originally written by Rachel Sugar.
"Fine if it's for a favor the person has done, but obnoxious if it's a command disguised as premature gratitude," Schwalbe says.
Licht agrees. It "comes off as not really that thankful," she says. While it doesn't particularly bother Pachter, the consensus is that you can probably do better. Skip.
2. 'Thanks again'
Again, Schwalbe and Licht aren't fans.
It's "even worse then 'thanks' if it's a command and not genuine gratitude," he says.
Everyone agrees that what Schwalbe calls the "whole 'thanks' family" really only makes sense when you're genuinely thanking someone for an actual thing they did for you.
That said, the exclamation-pointed version is Licht's go-to for internal communication when she's expressing actual gratitude. It's happy and sincere, she says. (Schwalbe, too, considers himself a general "fan of exclamation points," within reason.)
4. 'Thanks so much'
Licht and Pachter think it's fine. Schwalbe has had enough of my questions about the "thanks" family.
5. 'TTYL,' 'TAFN,' etc.
Avoid slang and acronyms, like TTYL ("talk to you later") or TAFN ("that's all for now"). These are unprofessional and confusing.
6. 'All best'
Pachter notes that in general, the rule is that the more words you use, the more formal the closing, which makes "all best" slightly more formal than "best." Licht, though, isn't a fan of this one, calling it "too effusive."
"Are you really sending ALL your best, or just some?"
Still, it's a relatively safe choice.
Click through the slideshow to see bad workplace habits you should break:
Bad Habits to Break in 2016
Here is the perfect way to end an email -- and 27 sign-offs you should usually avoid
Since most of us have access to the internet at work, it's easy to get sidetracked looking up the answer to a random question that just popped into your head.
That's why Quora user Suresh Rathinam recommends writing down these thoughts or questions on a notepad. This way, you can look up the information you want later, when you're not trying to get work done.
While many people believe they're great at doing two things at once, scientific research has found that just 2% of the population is capable of effectively multitasking.
Constant internet access can also lead people to check email throughout the day. Sadly, each time you do this, you lose up to 25 minutes of work time. What's more, the constant checking of email makes you dumber.
Instead, strategy consultant Ron Friedman suggests quitting Outlook, closing email tabs, and turning off your phone for 30-minute chunks of deep-diving work.
Whether it's a new diet, workout routine, or work schedule, one of the most difficult things about forming a new habit is the urge to cheat as a reward for sticking to a routine for a while.
This idea that we "deserve" to splurge on fancy meal after being thrifty for a week is called "moral licensing," and it undermines a lot of people's plans for self-improvement.
Instead, try making your goal part of your identity, such that you think of yourself as the kind of person who saves money or works out regularly, rather than as someone who is working against their own will to do something new.
People often start off their day by completing easy tasks to get themselves rolling and leave their more difficult work for later. This is a bad idea, and one that frequently leads to the important work not getting done at all.
As researchers have found, people have a limited amount of willpower that decreases throughout the day. That being the case, it's best to get your hardest, most important tasks done at the beginning of the day.
Nothing disrupts the flow of productivity like an unnecessary meeting. And with tools like email, instant messenger, and video chat at your fingertips, it's best to use meetings for introductions and serious discussions that should only be held in person.
BlueGrace Logistics founder Bobby Harris recommends that people don't accept a meeting unless the person who requested it has put forth a clear agenda and stated exactly how much time they will need. And even then, Harris recommends giving the person half of the time they initially requested.
She recommends forgoing coffee or fluorescent-lighted conference-room meetings in favor of walking and talking 20 to 30 miles a week.
"You'll be surprised at how fresh air drives fresh thinking, and in the way that you do, you'll bring into your life an entirely new set of ideas," she says.
It might feel like pressing the snooze button in the morning gives you a little bit of extra rest to start your day, but the truth is that it does more harm than good.
That's because when you first wake up, your endocrine system begins to release alertness hormones to get you ready for the day. By going back to sleep, you're slowing down this process. Plus, nine minutes doesn't give your body time to get the restorative, deep sleep it needs.
This isn't to say you should cut back on sleep. As Arianna Huffington discusses in her TED talk, a good night's sleep has the power to increase productivity, happiness, smarter decision-making, and unlock bigger ideas. The trick for getting enough sleep is planning ahead and powering down at a reasonable time.
Some people think having lots of goals is the best way to ensure success — if one idea fails, at least there are plenty more in reserve to turn to. Unfortunately, this sort of wavering can be extremely unproductive.
Warren Buffett has the perfect antidote. Seeing that his personal pilot was not accomplishing his life goals, Buffett asked him to make a list of 25 things he wanted to get done before he died. But rather than taking little steps toward completing every one of them, Buffett advised the pilot to pick five things he thought were most important and ignore the rest.
Many ambitious and organized people try to maximize their productivity by meticulously planning out every hour of their day. Unfortunately, things don't always go as planned, and a sick child or unexpected assignment can throw a wrench into their entire day.
With that being said, you should take time to strategize before attempting to achieve any long-term goals. Trying to come up with the endgame of a project you're doing midway through the process can be extremely frustrating and waste a huge amount of time.
More often than laziness the root of procrastination is the fear of noting doing a good job, says British philosopher and author Alain de Botton on his website, The Book of Life.
"We begin to work only when the fear of doing nothing at all exceeds the fear of not doing it very well … And that can take time," he writes.
The only way to overcome procrastination is to abandon perfectionism and not fuss over details as you move forward. Pretending the task doesn't matter and that it's OK to mess up could help you get started faster.
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7. 'Best wishes'
"Ever so slightly more formal than 'all best' or 'best,' it's a good one for initial contact," Schwalbe says. Licht thinks it's "stuffy." Another pretty low-risk option.
"Is this a cover letter? Because otherwise, no," says Licht.
"Very formal, and could seem cold if it follows more intimate sign-offs," Schwalbe cautions.
But Pachter feels that it all depends on the opening salutation. If you began with "dear," then "sincerely" is appropriate, she says.
9. 'Looking forward'
Totally fine, they agree — assuming you're actually going to see that person in the near future. Otherwise, skip it.
10. 'Speak with you soon'
"Only if you really want to," Schwalbe says. If you don't, though, it's not a good option.
11. 'Talk soon'
The more casual cousin of "speak with you soon," this one follows pretty much the same rules as its relative. If you actually will be talking soon, it's fine (though Licht isn't sold on it). If you don't actually plan to talk soon, it's insincere.
12. 'More soon'
"You are committing yourself to a second reply," Schwalbe cautions. "Do you really want to do that? Or should you just take a moment and answer the thing properly right now?"
Licht feels even more strongly. "Promises can be forgotten," she says. "Under-promise, over-deliver." Skip.
"Absolutely not," says Pachter, who feels it's just not professional. But Schwalbe says it has become "remarkably accepted even in casual (very casual) business correspondence."
That said, it's "best to use in reply to someone else who is using and not initiate."
Licht says she uses a version of it herself — "Aliza x" — for "friendly yet professional" notes, but agrees you have to have a "pre-existing close relationship." Use cautiously.
Ironically, it's the hugs, not the kisses that make this one inappropriate. While "xx" may have a place in the working world, "xoxo" is "really for dear friends and people with whom you are even more intimate," Schwalbe says.
A fan of the whole "warm" family, Schwalbe thinks "warmly" is less formal than "sincerely," but a little more formal than the whole "best" family, and Pachter likes it, too.
Licht, however, is unimpressed. "Snorefest," she says.
This one is unexpectedly controversial: Schwalbe likes it, Licht thinks it's a "double snorefest," and Pachter finds it "a little teenage." Tread carefully.
"It's fine," Pachter says, though she's not sold on it. "It always seems a bit like you want to be Australian," Schwalbe says.
To Licht, it seems "pretentious, unless you're actually British."
Schwalbe suggests a test: Would you say it to people in person? If so, go for it. If not, reserve it for the British.
18. — [your name]
Licht and Schwalbe agree it's "cold" and "abrupt."
19. First initial ('A.')
The problem here is confusion. "I personally don't like it," Pachter says. "What does it stand for? I guess it's okay, but it's not something I would do."
Schwalbe points out that unless you know someone well, it's annoying because "you aren't telling them what to call you. If I do 'W,' people don't know if I'm 'Will' or 'William.'"
20. [nothing at all]
While it's "absolutely fine as a chain progresses," Schwalbe says, "it's nice to end the first volley with a sign off." Once a conversation is underway, though, Pachter approves of getting rid of both the salutation and the close.
"I never understood this one," Licht says. "Yours what?" If you are going to use it, though, Schwalbe says it's one of the more formal options, though it's not quite as formal as "sincerely."
22. 'Yours truly'
According to Pachter's "more words, more formal" rule, this is a step above "yours." Still, Licht says it strikes her as "fake."
23. 'Yours faithfully'
"I always assume it's going to be a marriage proposal," Pachter says. Don't use it.
"A little stiff," Schwalbe says. "Also, it brings to mind, for people of a certain age, Diana Ross singing 'Upside Down.'" Unless you're addressing the President of the United States, Licht says it's too formal.
If you do happen to be addressing POTUS, though, you're on the right track. A variation — "respectfully yours" — is indeed the standard close for addressing government officials and clergy, Pachter explains.
"Hate, hate, hate," says Licht, though she says she hates the supposedly more casual abbreviated version — "Rgds" — even more. "It's like you're so busy you can't even spell it."
Schwalbe, however, doesn't mind it. "Nice," he says, noting that it's "a little formal." Think of it as equivalent to the "warm" family, he advises.
26. 'Take care'
Licht gives it a lukewarm "ehh," and Schwalbe says it provokes anxiety. "I feel this is akin to 'safe travels,' albeit with a slightly medical connotation." It makes him "a bit paranoid," he says. "Like you know I'm in danger and I don't."
27. 'Looking forward to hearing from you'
A minefield of power dynamics, this one is "a bit presumptuous, but fine if you are doing a favor for someone," Shwalbe says. It's not fine, however, if you're the one asking.
Plus, as Licht points out, it puts you in a "subservient position where you can't take action, but must wait for the other person's cue."
28. THE WINNER: 'Best'
All three experts agree that "best" is among the safest possible choices, inoffensive, and almost universally appropriate. So when in doubt, go with "best."
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Here is the perfect way to end an email -- and 27 sign-offs you should usually avoid
"If you don't, the interviewer will assume you are either insecure, don't have an appropriate answer for the question being asked, or are being deceptive. Does that mean it's true? No, but perception is everything in a job interview."
Reiman said smiling demonstrates confidence, openness, warmth, and energy.
"It also sets off the mirror neurons in your listener, instructing them to smile back. Without the smile, an individual is often seen as grim or aloof," she explained.
This may give the interviewer the impression that you're bored or uninterested in the conversation. Instead, keep your hands on the desk or table, and don't fidget.
In their book "Crazy Good Interviewing," John B. Molidor, Ph.D., and Barbara Parus suggest showing your palms during an interview — since the gesture indicates sincerity — or pressing the fingertips of your hands together to form a church steeple. which displays confidence, reports Business Insider's Shana Lebowitz.
"People don't realize that the job interview begins in the waiting room, but it does. So don't slouch in the chair in the reception area," she advised. "In order to be perceived as confident, you must sit or stand tall, with your neck elongated, ears and shoulders aligned, and chest slightly protruding."
This position changes the chemicals in our brain to make us feel stronger and more confident, and it gives the outward appearance of credibility, strength, and vitality, she explained.
Playing with your hair, touching your face, or any other kind of fidgeting can be a major distraction for your interviewer. It also demonstrates a lack of power, said Reiman.
This gesture will tell the interviewer you're not comfortable or you're closed off.
"When we touch our faces or hair, it is because we need self soothing,"Reiman explained.
Is that the message you want to send to your interviewer
A weak handshake may tell the interviewer that you're nervous, shy, and that you lack confidence, explains Colin Shaw, CEO of Beyond Philosophy, a customer experience consultancy, in a LinkedIn post.
Ideally, your handshake should be firm, but not overbearing. "The secret to a great handshake is palm-to-palm contact," Wood told Business Insider. You want to slide your hand down into the web of theirs, and make palm-to-palm contact. Lock thumbs, and apply an equal amount of pressure.
"It's okay to use your hands to illustrate a few important points," writes Lebowitz. "In fact, research suggests that staying too still can give the impression of coldness.
"But relying too much on hand gestures can be distracting, according to Molidor and Parus."
She says you should remember you're in a job interview, not a theater audition.
People tend to show their dominating personality by gripping the interviewer's hand and palming it down, but this tells the interviewer that you need to feel powerful, Reiman explained. "Instead, the handshake should be more natural: thumbs in the upward position and two to three pumps up and down."
As the applicant, you should always wait for the interviewer to extend their hand first, she added.