You Should Probably Change How You Sign Emails

by Doyin Oyeniyi

I feel like this is a safe place, so I can finally admit this: I absolutely hate ending my emails with “best.” And I’m not the only one — Rebecca Greenfield, writing for Bloomberg, explained why it’s time for us to do away with "best," one of the most ubiquitous, and therefore pointless, valedictions to use when signing an email.

“The problem with best is that it doesn’t signal anything at all,” Greenfield wrote. Others seem to agree. In Robin Edds' Buzzfeed list on what email endings mean, “best” comes across as “I’m thinking about what I’m going to have for lunch.” On the Hairpin, Caity Weaver described the signoff as “the black tanktop tucked in the rear of the display. It works well enough for just about everyone, but you’re not really trying, are you?”

So why have I been using “best” if I hate it so much? Because everybody else was using it. I’m one of those people who has a bit of anxiety over how to write and end emails, so even though I found “best” impersonal and insincere, I adopted it because it was what filled my own inbox.

According to Greenfield, the takeover of “best” is pretty recent:

A University of Pennsylvania study from 2003 found that, out of hundreds of e-mailers, only 5 percent opted to close with best. It came in behind “thank you” and “regards.” But a quick search through your work account will quickly clear up two things: 1) No one says regards anymore; 2) everyone says best.

Fortunately, that means now we’ve used it so much that we’ve ultimately rendered it ineffective. Congratulations! But what now? For a short period, when I was using Crystal, the app that helps you draft emails, I received suggestions on the best valediction for each person, but my trial for that has ended and I'm completely lost again.

Greenfield suggested ending emails with no valediction, an idea I wasn’t completely sold on until I perused some of my older emails and found a few interesting revelations. 1) A copyeditor who I'd mentored with during the end of my senior year of high school usually hadn’t ended his emails with any valediction, and 2) I used to end my emails with no valediction or (bear with me here) “=Doyin,” which played on the “D” in my name to form a smiley face. I know, I know. Trust me, you aren’t judging me as much as I’m judging myself for that.

But back to this copyeditor. Instead of a regular signoff, he ended his emails with a closing statement such as “Let me know how you are doing” or “Keep in touch” and that was it. Still friendly, not abrupt, but effective. It won’t work for all situations, but it’s a far better alternative than "best."

Of course, if you’re not sold on that, there are always other options, like "Thanks," although that has its downsides too. Use your judgement to make case-by-case decisions. Let’s just try not let another takeover like “best” happen again.

Yours truly with the warmest and best regards,