27 September 2023

Signing off: How ending an email can make or break a message

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine* says there are down sides to an email signoff that guarantees a high response rate and offers some alternatives.

Email sign offs that include “Thank you” or some variation of these golden words had a much higher response rate than those that don’t, a Boomerang study found.

The one that gets the most responses? “Thanks in advance.”

But before you start closing all your emails with this phrase, take a moment to think about what you’re really saying with it.

While it does convey gratitude, it’s also a little abrupt — even possibly a bit rude.

It’s presumptuous, after all, suggesting that the recipient is absolutely going to do what you’ve asked them.

For some, it might indicate that this is all the thanks they’ll get and you won’t actually thank them once they’ve carried out the request.

Instead of using this sign off, which carries a number of implications, why not try one of these email closings instead?

  1. Thanks

It’s simple, it’s effective and it’s not loaded with any presumption.

You’re simply letting the recipient know that you’re grateful to them.

It’s not hostile or expectant, and it leaves the decision to take action in the recipient’s hands.

Just be careful not to deploy this sometimes overused closing when there’s nothing for which you’re actually thanking the recipient.

If it’s more straightforward, try an alternative; I, for one, prefer “Best” in professional contexts.

  1. Thanks for your consideration

This is a bit more specific in that you’re actually asking the recipient to do something: reflect on your proposal, whatever it may be.

However, unlike “Thanks in advance,” it doesn’t presume that the recipient will do any one thing but instead gives them a chance to mull it over.

This is a great one for job applications, for example, because that’s really what you’re asking the hiring manager to do: consider you for the role.

If you were to thank them in advance, then that might sound like you fully expect to clinch the job.

In fact, even by simply reading your email, the recipient has given you their consideration, so really, you’re expressing your appreciation for that action.

  1. Thanks for your attention

If you’re looking for a more formal approach, this one will do the trick.

“Thanks for your attention” also demands a reply but without the presumptive air of “Thanks in advance.”

Instead, it’s direct and to-the-point, letting your recipient know that you expect them to respond to your email and deal with the situation you discussed.

This is a good approach for communicating with employees but possibly a little too managerial and curt for talking to your own manager or peer.

  1. Thank you for your help

If someone has already done something for you — or if you definitely know they’re going to — “Thanks for your help” is a bit more gracious than “Thanks in advance.”

However, you should only use it if you’re absolutely sure the favour will occur.

Otherwise, as with “Thanks in advance,” it might come across as impolite.

Here’s an alternative that’s a little less bold: “Thanks for any help you can provide.”

While it sounds similar, it doesn’t automatically assume that you expect the person to do what you want, nor does it suggest that they have to.

  1. Thanks for__

This is a great someone if you have something specific for which you can thank the recipient.

Perhaps they lent a hand on a project (or offered to) or gave you a word of praise in a meeting.

Like “Thanks for your help,” this will most often apply to situations where the recipient has already done something for which they deserve your gratitude or made it clear that they intend to — unless, of course, you fill in the blank with something like “thinking it over.”

  1. I look forward to hearing from you

Not all messages need to convey your gratitude.

If you’re writing an email that falls into that category, then including “Thanks” in your sign-off isn’t necessary, either — in fact, as per point #1, it may come across as a little off.

This is a straightforward, assertive way of letting the recipient know that you expect to receive a response, but it’s also polite and self-assured.

This is also a response that you can combine with some of the previous sign-offs on this list. “Thanks for your help. I look forward to hearing from you,” for example, is a direct way of expressing your thanks while still demonstrating that you fully expect them to reply to your email.

“Thanks in advance” isn’t a sign-off that will destroy your reputation; in fact, it might improve your odds of getting a response.

But could it rub the recipient the wrong way? Quite possibly. Why not try one of these more gracious alternatives instead?

*Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor in Brooklyn.

This article first appeared at fairygodboss.com.au

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