While we're not on the subject of email etiquette (or, as some cutesily prefer, "netiquette"), I direct you to this very sensible list of business email basics. I especially like the directive to always use a term of address (Dear Melissa:; Hi Melissa,; My darling Melissa,; Yoo-Hoo Hot Stuff!; etc.) and always use a sign-off; as well as the advice about making subject lines relevant to the message within.
It has recently come to my attention that my condemnation of "Best" as an email sign-off is leaving many power-corresponders in the lurch:
Okay, my personal experience with Best. I see it quite often in my day-to-day business correspondence and it doesn't bother me. My opinions: I feel it's less formal than Sincerely, but not so overly girly as Fondly or Warmly. Best Wishes feels a little too much like a celebration--best wishes on your anniversary or birthday. Yours Truly sounds like I am in love with the person. So Best is usually the route for me.
Fair enough, but I'm still not convinced. I am going to come out in support of "Best regards" in substitution for "Best." I do find that the usage of sign-offs degrades as a conversation continues, making it weird and redundant to constantly use a sign-off. I can see "Best regards" degrading into "Regards" (a little lawyerly, but okay) and perhaps "Best" eventually. One should beware of tone, however: It is distancing to sign a personal email with "Best regards," as it is inappropriate to use too intimate a sign-off (my close friends are familiar with "xom," my personal stock farewell) for a business transaction.
I do think that women are in a an especially interesting bind as the commenter above points out, as the modern workplace often forbids any show of "girliness" and too chummy a sign-off can be seen as a sign of vulnerability. What about abbreviations of formal sign-offs? You get the formality, but you also bridge the distance by using shorthand, and the added bonus of seeming too busy to write out the whole sign-off? E.g.: "B.R." for "Best regards"? "Y.T." for "Yours truly"? Perhaps a bit arcane.
Thoughts? What about the usage of quotes in email signatures? The WSJ has a good thinkish piece on this.
Deep, abiding love,