After reading a clickbaity Bloomberg article that made a big deal about how ending emails with “Best” is supposedly wrong, I updated part of my “Email Tips” handout. I don’t think it matters whether you close your email with “Best” or “Thanks” or nothing at all, as long as you aren’t obsequious and wasteful on the one hand, or blunt to the point of rudeness on the other. Lots of routine email messages don’t need any opening and closing, but a first-contact situation such as a job application will call for a more formal structure.
Why are you writing? Are you responding to a request? Apologizing for an error on your part? Asking for the recipient to take some action for you?
- Purpose: Any textbook on business and professional writing will include examples of complaint and adjustment letters, proposal letters, progress reports, application letters, and so forth.
- Directness: You probably don’t need to open with “Dear Ms. Jones,” engage in personal chit-chat, and close with “Yours Truly.” (If you really want to be that formal, send a letter on paper instead.)
- Organization: Readers will often get partway through a complex message, hit “reply” as soon as they have something to contribute, and forget to read the rest. That’s human nature.
- Number your points in more complex message. (Start with a clear statement of how many parts there are to your message.)
- Split unrelated points into separate, purposeful emails.
- Politeness: Please and thank-you are still important, but wordiness wastes your reader’s time (which is rude).
- Indirect and wasteful: “Dearest Arnold: I would be very much obliged if, at your earliest convenience, you could send me the current password for the website. I look forward to your response. Have a nice day! Yours Truly, Philomena.”
- Blunt to the point of rudeness: “Need the password for the website.” (If you get a message like this, you might assume the sender trusts you and really needs your help; however, if you send a message like this, you might appear needy and panicky. Is that how you want to come across? Think about it.)
- Urgent, yet polite: “Site is down, but I can’t troubleshoot without the new password. Do you know it?”