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How to End an Email

With business communication evolving into shorter, quicker messages, people wonder about long-standing formalities like complimentary closes (for example, Sincerely and Best wishes). Do we still use them? If so, which ones belong where? Here are answers to frequently asked questions about complimentary closes for letters, notes, emails, and texts.

Question: Aren’t Sincerely and Best wishes actually salutations? 

Answer: No, salutations are greetings. They come at the beginning of the message. Endings for messages are called “complimentary closings” or “complimentary closes”–or sometimes just “closes.”

Maybe the expression “Greetings and salutations” made people think that those are two different things, but they aren’t. They both start a message.

When do I need to include a complimentary close?

Business letters. Closes are standard in business letters, so you need to use them there.  One style of letter, the simplified style, leaves out both the greeting and the close. But most writers don’t follow that style.

Notes. At the end of a handwritten message such as a thank-you note or a condolence message, include a closing.

Email used as a letter. You also need to include a close when you use email like a business letter–that is, as a professional communication to customers, clients, and others outside your company.

Internal company emails. Normally you don’t need a close in emails within your organization, but you may want to end with one, especially if you are writing to someone you don’t know or don’t regularly email. Also, some closings help you end on a friendly note.

Texts. As with emails, if you use texts to communicate with customers and clients, you may want to include a closing to come across as polite and professional. Otherwise, you don’t need them.

What are acceptable closes these days?  

Many complimentary closes are right for a variety of communications. For letters and notes, these are acceptable, listed in order generally from formal to warm and friendly:

Letters and Notes

Very truly yours,
Respectfully,
Yours truly,
Sincerely yours,
Sincerely,
Best regards,
Kind regards,
With thanks,
Best wishes,
With thanks and best wishes,
Cordially,
Warm wishes,
Warm regards,
Warmly,

Sympathy Cards and Notes

In deepest sympathy,
With sympathy,
With our condolences,
Very sincerely,
Wishing you peace,
Sincere regards,

Emails
If you use email to clients and others the way you would use a business letter, choose from the closes above for letters. For less formal emails, try any of these:

Best,
Regards,
All the best,
All best,
Cheers,
Ciao,

Thanks works especially well in a closing sentence such as “Thanks for your help” or “Thanks again for your interest.” By itself, it may seem incomplete as a complimentary close, but many people use it.

Texts
Texts do not need complimentary closes. But you may wish to use a close if it is to a client, customer, professor, or another individual whose professional relationship you value. Do not use abbreviated closes such as KR or BW, which make readers do the work (Kind regards, Best wishes). Consider these brief closes:

Best,
All best,
Cheers,

If two people will sign a letter, should I include two complimentary closes? 

No, even with two people signing, use just one complimentary close. As shown below, you can type the names side by side or one above the other. Of course, the individuals sign above their names.

Complimentary close with double signature

In my first email to a potential customer, I use Sincerely. In my subsequent emails should I continue to use it? How do I know when to switch the level of formality to a friendlier close? 

Change to a friendlier close when you have had friendly interactions with the individual. For example, if you have a phone conversation that helps you get to know someone or if you exchange emails that build your rapport, you can move from Sincerely to Best wishes, Best, or All the best. Also, pay attention to how the other person signs off and consider matching that tone.

In my inbox today, I have emails from customers, clients, colleagues, and vendors that close with Sincerely, Thanks, Thank you, Best regards, Thanks and regards, Best, Kind regards, and no close. The people I know best among these ended their emails with Thanks, Sincerely, and no close.

I have seen closings with all the important words capitalized, for example, Best Wishes and Sincerely Yours. Is capitalizing the second word optional?

Capitalizing the second and subsequent words is wrong. Only when one of those words is a proper noun should it be capitalized. Examples:

Best wishes for a happy Christmas,
Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving,

 

Does a comma always follow a complimentary closing?

Most professionals in the United States and Canada use a comma after the complimentary close.  In other parts of the world, many people use no punctuation after the close. (They also use no punctuation after the salutation.) The use of no punctuation after the greeting and close is called “open punctuation.”

If you choose to close with a special phrase such as Happy new year or Have a wonderful trip, you can follow it with an exclamation point.

In a very serious message in which I don’t want to come across as friendly, can I leave out the complimentary close? 

Even in a serious message, it’s smart to be polite and professional. With a message such as a debt-collection letter or a job-performance warning, you can use a professional, formal close:

Respectfully,
Very truly yours,
Sincere regards,
Regards,

 

Are there any closes to avoid? 

Avoid any overly mushy closes. For example, do not use Your loving student even if you have a close relationship with your professor. It’s just not appropriate. Some women who are close business friends use XO. It’s a very friendly close, but people who use it run the risk of being misunderstood, especially if other people receive copies of their correspondence.

Also avoid nonstandard closes. One that comes to mind is Kindly. Does it mean that the writer is writing kindly? A better, similar choice is Kind regards. 

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

8 comments on “How to End an Email”

  • Hi Patty,

    What a thoughtful comment and question! You have made me think more about my “Kindly” aversion. I’m glad to do that.

    There are several things I object to about “Kindly.” In no particular order, here they are:

    –“Kindly” echoes for me the sharp-tone uses I remember, either from my life or from the arts: “Would you kindly remove your wet umbrella from the doorknob?” and “Would you kindly stop calling me?”

    –“Kindly” feels off to me. If I am the writer, am I writing to you kindly–that is, gently, pleasantly, agreeably? I appreciate that you want to express your kindness and respect. Respect works for me, but the kindness part doesn’t sit right–for me. “Sincerely” makes sense because one writes sincerely. “Cordially” and “Warmly” and the rest seem right because they suggest a feeling. For some reason “Kindly” doesn’t do that for me, perhaps because it is not part of my normal vocabulary. Maybe I should find ways to work it in more, as in “He kindly let me into the conference room early.”

    –It’s uncommon. It doesn’t appear in any of my three go-to style guides that include complimentary closes: “Emily Post’s Etiquette,” Robert Hickey’s “Honor and Respect,” and “The Gregg Reference Manual.” I realize that fresh language is a good thing. But “Kindly” feels odd. The famous coach and educator Marshall Goldsmith ends all his messages “Life is good.” (Or at least he used to.) THAT’S an uncommon close, and you wouldn’t want to use it for your purposes at work, but it’s the kind of uncommon that strikes me as fitting.

    For your messages, what do you think of “All the best”? Or even the closing sentence “Thanks so much”?

    I’m happy to keep thinking about this question.

    Lynn

  • Hi Lynn,

    Very interesting post. In my previous job, I often used “Have a wonderful day!” as email closing, in part because my messages were usually “stand alone”, meaning there were not a lot of back-and-forth exchanges, and also because my tone was usually somewhat informal.

    In my current job, my emails are frequently part of a chain discussion in which I am asking for something (documentation, information, signatures, etc.), and there is a lot of back-and-forth, so wishing a wonderful day each time seemed misplaced. I consider my boss to be a great writer, and she uses “Kindly,” as closing, so I followed suit.

    I was curious to see “kindly” as your main example of closings to avoid. I do mean to express that I am writing with kindness and respect, and I am trying to not sound demanding. I do not love “kind regards”.

    I am curious about your thoughts in this situation. Can you elaborate as to why “kindly” should be avoided?

    Thank you!
    (I want to write “Kindly,”, so now I am stuck)

    Patty

  • It’s always good to hear from you, George. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

    I agree about “Regards.” Very cold.

    Lynn

  • Hi Lynn,

    Thank you for elaborating. I really like “cordially”, and I think you are right – it does a better job of describing the feeling I am trying to express. I am making the change immediately. I will aspire to one day find my own unique but fitting closing.

    As a side note, I may have felt comfortable using “kindly” because I use the word “kind” a lot. The only time I use the word “cordial”, is after dinner.

    Cordially,
    Patty

  • Lynn, thanks for starting this discussion.

    I reserve “All the best” for friends. I close almost all business emails with “Best regards”. Otherwise I would have to remember how I close emails to each person. “Kind regards” is slightly too friendly for me, even for people I know. “Warm regards” is way too friendly. “Regards” seems cold.

    But none of these closings bother me in emails I receive.

    I like the no-closing option for public blog comments like this. Thanks for saying it’s okay!

    George

  • Hi! 🙂 This is very useful information! Thank you sharing this helpful article with us. One tiny thought if I may about “FAQs” in the title. The letter “Q” already stands for “Questions” so perhaps the extra letter “s” may not be needed. What do you think? Thank you, Roderick

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