In the age of the Internet, everyone is used to the world being just a click away. Ask someone to write a letter and watch the look on his or her face fall into a state of confusion. Why spend the time and incur the inevitable hand cramp practicing
cursive when the same message can be sent in a few taps on the keyboard?
Snail mail can easily be discarded with the cable bill nowadays, which places a greater emphasis on e-mail. But in our day, e-mail can be both a blessing and a curse. Within the culture of e-mail, many people fail to recognize the importance of signatures.
Most people simply write their name, and others go out of their way to come up with a cute cliche that embodies their message and personality. The way one ends an e-mail says a lot about a person, whether intentional or not. It could reveal
that a person wants to talk to his boss like he’s one of the boys, or show a friend that she’s not as close as she thought.
These days, dialogue is breaking down with the age of technology, and signoffs are becoming stylish and more curt. At first, it was “Warmest regards” or “Looking forward to talking with you.”
Now, it’s just “Best” with the possibility that the recipient is going to feel snubbed. Surprisingly, many business e-mails end in lower-case letters, and within a few back-and-forth e-mails a strict “Sincerely” can quickly change to the more intimate “See you soon.”
It’s not rare for a professional to think that “Best” followed by the name is a brush-off, so for all of you who are applying for internships, beware. “Best” seems to be a fan favorite for professionals in the workplace and adds a little warmth to a memo or an everyday e-mail.
Dustin Kidd, a sociology professor, switches up his signoffs, using “Best regards” for professional correspondence and “Peace” for informal e-mails. “I am less concerned with signoffs than I am with students not giving a name at all,” Kidd said.
Even if there isn’t a signoff, it says a lot about his or her personality, or that the person may be lacking sleep. Many students are direct and to the point with their e-mail signoffs. Prince Williams,
a senior business student, said it’s in the nature of the e-mail. “I usually use ‘Thank you’ as in saying, ‘Thanks for taking the time to read my e-mail.’ ‘Sincerely’ just sounds too formal,” Williams said.
Professionals, however, deal with e-mails more regularly and are affected differently.
Anita Hilliard, graduate secretary for the department of anthropology, receives many e-mails from interested students and faculty alike. She uses “Best” or “Regards” when it comes to a student who’s not in the program, but addresses the faculty or graduate students with “Thanks,” followed be her name. She said that the way someone ends his or her e-mails establishes either the formal or informal relationship of the party as well as the mood of the e-mail.
“It sets me up for how I’m going to respond,” Hilliard said. “You read into it to get a lot about their disposition.”
Jena Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.