Does anyone else overthink how to begin and end an email? When emails first overtook letters (or even faxes), the traditional opening of Dear quickly seemed anachronistic, as did the even more stilted sign off of Yours sincerely. Hello was one alternative, but to my ear, it has a stiff, even curt edge to it. It’s been replaced by Hi for informal exchanges, but professional communication is still in a state of confusion. I’ve noticed Good morning is popular, but as emails are time-logged, they must be sent in the morning (obviously). Its counterpart, Good afternoon, for some reason hasn’t caught on.

Recently I received just such an email at 11.50 am. This was our first exchange and I was keen to make a good (but au courant) impression.  By 12.15, I was cornered. I felt that any response could pigeon-hole me in some way. Although Dear is still in use, it felt like an overly prim response to Good morning. Hi was too familiar in the context, and Good afternoon felt a bit Jane Austen. I considered waiting until the next morning to respond but that seemed ridiculous.

And then the sign-off. Professional emails vary wildly: Kind regards, Yours kindly, Best regards, Best wishes, Warm wishes, or simply Best. The next step in familiarity is Cheers, although I’ve never been a fan. It’s interesting to see how rapidly you can move from Kind regards to Cheers if there have been several emails in quick succession. But if there is a break of weeks or months, that sense of familiarity can wane and you might find yourself back at Kind regards or maybe the intermediate Best – not as matey as Cheers, but more nonchalant than other options

And who gets to decide? I always follow the lead of the other person – but why do they get to choose?

How about simply Salutations as an all-purpose solution? Stay with me here. English is a living language so couldn’t its definition expand to mean both hello and goodbye (think Aloha and Ciao)? It could perhaps (d)evolve to the simpler Salut – which coincidently is an equivalent of Cheers, but without the whiff of sticky beer fingers on the keyboard.  Let’s take the stress out of this dilemma.


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Anne Weeks

I feel ths dilemma often!
Starting with thank you works well but not always.
“Thank you for your email.” is great unless your next sentence is “but your idiotic ideas cannot be taken seriously!” 🤣