Thank you, Lola Ogunnaike, for taking one my bêtes noires by its wretched horns and laying bare the email etiquette-less-ness of the world at large. In today's Sunday Styles section, she exposes exactly what I've been trying to explain to troubled correspondents the globe over. Read the whole article but take special note of the first half, in which I finally find my soul mate in a chap improbably but sort of perfectly named "Chad Troutwine":
CHAD TROUTWINE, an entrepreneur in Malibu, Calif., was negotiating a commercial lease earlier this year for a building he owns in the Midwest. Though talks began well, they soon grew rocky. The telltale sign that things had truly devolved? The sign-offs on the e-mail exchanges with his prospective tenant.
âAs negotiations started to break down, the sign-offs started to get decidedly shorter and cooler,â Mr. Troutwine recalled. âIn the beginning it was like, âI look forward to speaking with you soonâ and âWarmest regards,â and by the end it was just âBest.â â The deal was eventually completed, but Mr. Troutwine still felt as if he had been snubbed.
Whatâs in an e-mail sign-off? A lot, apparently. Those final few words above your name are where relationships and hierarchies are established, and where what is written in the body of the message can be clarified or undermined. In the days before electronic communication, the formalities of a letter, either business or personal, were taught to every third-grader; sign-offs â from âSincerelyâ to âYours trulyâ to âLoveâ â came to mind without much effort. ...
Although salutations that begin messages can be tricky â there is a world of difference, it seems, between a âHi,â a âHelloâ and a âDearâ â the sign-off is the place where many writers attempt to express themselves, even when expressing personality, as in business correspondence, is not always welcome. ...
Mr. Troutwine is not alone in thinking that an e-mail sender who writes âBest,â then a name, is offering something close to a brush-off. He said he chooses his own business sign-offs in a descending order of cordiality, from âWarmest regardsâ to âAll the bestâ to a curt âSincerely.â
When Kim Bondy, a former CNN executive, e-mailed a suitor after a dinner date, she used one of her preferred closings: âChat soon.â It was her way of saying, âThe date went well, letâs do it again,â she said.
She may have been the only one who thought that. The return message closed with the dreaded âBest.â It left her feeling as though she had misread the evening. âI felt like, âOh, thatâs kind of formal. I donât think he liked me,â â she said, laughing. âA chill came with the âBest.â â They have not gone out since.
âBestâ does have its fans, especially in the workplace, where it can be an all-purpose step up in warmth from messages that end with no sign-off at all, just the sender coolly appending his or her name.
âI use âBestâ for all of my professional e-mails,â said Kelly Brady, a perky publicist in New York. âItâs friendly, quick and to the point.â
Lola Ogunnaike and Chad Troutwine, let's be pen pals.
Hopelessly devoted, Melissa