Who hasn't written a business letter fluently and in short order and then spent several minutes stressing out over how to sign off? You're not alone – it's a troubling matter for many of us. In the entrepreneurial world, seemingly small details like personal letter closings and formal letter-ending phrases are actually a big deal. Why? Because some sign offs are more appropriate than others.
The wrong sign off can make us seem incompetent, too forward or like a downright fuddy duddy no matter how articulately the rest of the letter was written. Simply put, the way you sign off counts if you want to make a memorable, positive impression on peers, associates, management or staff.
Use an Appropriate Closing
Inappropriateness is unprofessional, making the way you sign off on a business letter or the style of closing you choose a pretty big deal. Some company letters are quite formal or official, while others are more casual, and their endings should match the tone. Imagine signing off on an officially written reprimand or a notice-to-explain letter with an overly casual "cheers" or "warm regards." Either closing is not only ill suited to each of these letter types but might even be conveyed by the receiver as downright rude.
Is there ever a time to use "warm" or "warmly" in a business-related closing? Well, rarely, but yes – or maybe.
The "Warm Regards" Issue
You might think that signing off with a phrase that expresses a loving or caring emotion such as "warm regards" has no place in the professional setting. However, what if you're trying to extend warmth, such as with letters of holiday cheer or to express sympathy? In such cases, a little bit of kindness is called for. For example, if someone on your team suffers a loss, you might close your letter or card with "warmly."
If the situation calls for kind cheer or caring condolences, but you're not sold on "warm wishes" or "warm regards," contemplate suitable options for formal letter-ending phrases:
- Kind regards.
- All the best.
- Best wishes.
- So sorry to hear of the loss of your (aunt, grandfather, friend). We send our deepest condolences.
- With sympathy.
- With heartfelt condolences.
- With caring thoughts.
- Please keep in touch if you have time. Wishing you a glorious retirement!
- Happy holidays.
- Working with you this year has been our pleasure and an honor. Enjoy the holidays!
- We wish you and your family a prosperous (upcoming year).
- We couldn't succeed without great people like you on our team. All the best in (upcoming year)!
Signing Off a Letter of Thanks
It might seem fitting to sign off a thank you letter with a simple "thanks," but you have trendier, more creative options. Again, use your own judgement to choose an ideal closing phrase depending on the person with whom you're corresponding.
- Again, thank you for your (business, time, attention to this matter). (Thank you letters often get right to the point, stating appreciation in the first sentence. This closing is suitable when you want to reiterate your gratefulness before signing your name.) With thanks and appreciation.
- With sincere thanks.
- With gratitude.
- Kind thanks.
- Many thanks or thank you so much.
- Really appreciate your help, it means a lot. (This relaxed sign off is fine for someone with whom you're on a first-name basis if a simple "thanks" seems insufficient.)
Signing Off to Co-Workers
It's common for co-workers to become chummy or quite relaxed around each other. Folks spend a lot of time together at work, after all. However, the way one employee signs off a letter to a fellow employee still depends on the letter itself, so it's always a matter of best judgement. If, say, a co-worker runs an idea by a peer in a letter, he could close with a call to action like "let me know what you think" or "circle around to me when you have a chance" and then sign off with a friendly "thanks," "cheers," "best" or just with his name.
The same goes for close associates, such as when you sign off with another business owner or a mentor with whom you've become friendly and with whom you've maybe had lunch or dinner once or twice. Basically, if you're on a first-name basis with someone, it's usually OK to close letters to them in a friendly and casual yet professional manner.
Signing Off a Professional Email
You might consider an email a bit less official than a printed letter, but don't drop the etiquette ball. Professional correspondence is still professional correspondence whether it's delivered through cyberspace or by hand. Keep in mind that employers can occasionally check email trails for professionalism.
When you need to switch your casual hat for a professional one to write a formal letter, why stress out over the sign off you use? It's OK to go with the age-old, unoffensive "sincerely." In fact, consider using that sign off whenever you're closing an email to a senior or corporate member of a company or ending a thank you letter to a client. Although signing off with "sincerely" is fitting for professional emails, ditch it if your tone is even slightly casual because it will seem stuffy in that case.
A few other ways to sign off a professional (or somewhat professional) email include:
- Best regards (Commit this one to memory. It's a modern, all-around-acceptable closing whether you're sending a professional or casual email or letter.)
- Best (This is somewhat more relaxed than "best regards." Consider using it for professional emails within your company or to outside associates who are familiar with you.)
- Regards (Again, only use this as an email sign off to someone you've already met.)
- Thank you for your (time, assistance, recommendation, consideration).
Business Letter Closings to Avoid
Choosing the right ending phrase for a business letter may be a battle almost every time, but using the wrong one is an etiquette crime and a definite no-no. Some sign offs are too informal or inappropriate for professional business letters of any kind:
- Take care.
- Faithfully yours.
- Have a blessed day.
- Sent from my cell phone/mobile device (This one is controversial. You could leave the automatic mobile signature in your device's settings as a way to excuse any spelling errors, or you could remove it if it seems like a distraction.)
- Yours truly.
- Looking forward to hearing from you (Seems innocent enough, right? Well, many receivers will read it without a thought, but some might interpret it passive aggressively as "I expect you to write back.")
Don't lose sleep worrying about which closing phrases to avoid. It's simple – if you could use it to end a love letter, ransom note, sermon or yoga class, don't close your letter with it.
The Best Closing Phrase
Ultimately, the art of choosing the most fitting closing sentence for your letter or email comes down to common sense, appropriateness and personal preference. So, try not to overthink it and instead opt for one that seems suitable for the situation at hand.
For simplicity, why not note how respected members of your business world sign off when corresponding with you? You can follow their lead.
Lorna Hordos is a home-improvement business owner and freelance writer. She has written hundreds of conversational business articles for WordPress.com, Bizfluent, AZ Central and Global Post.