Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ask Angie: Email ettiquette

What is an appropriate way to greet someone in an email?

I never paid any attention to how I began emails until someone complained when a subordinate used “hey” at the beginning of an email. Well, I am an avid “hey” user so I immediately became self-conscious about how I was starting emails. I definitely knew those several emails that I began with “Yo” were not going to survive this level of scrutiny so I tried on a few new styles.

I tested “good morning” or “good afternoon”. Then, I tried to write an email to someone on the west coast – they were still in the morning and I had already broken into the afternoon. What in the world to do? Do I try to anticipate when they are going to read it? What if I am sending an email late at night – assume they are reading it in the morning and say, “good morning”? It was all just too much.

Then I tried the person’s name and a comma: “Anna,”. As I wrote it, I felt it seemed a little cold to the folks I had been pummeling with “hey”s for the last six months, but I was trying to be professional - darn it. This worked until I had to send a group email. What do I do – list everyone’s name like I was writing a thank you note? Don't think so.

So, I turned to my Facebook family. The reaction was mixed. Several people worked in offices where “hey” was absolutely appropriate and used by everyone. Others’workplaces required a more rigorous level of formality. But then, my cousin came through with a brilliant suggestion. “Greetings”. Yes, “Greetings”. It’s perfect! It is appropriate for group emails, people I haven’t met, people I have met, the list goes on and on. So that is my new go-to greeting, except for when I am really mad at the one guy in research. His emails will still start with “DUDE! What was that?”

Now – how in the world to end the email?
- Sincerely,

- Until we meet again,

- As you were,

- 10-4

- I am typing on my phone so please excuse the typos.

- I never learned to spell, please read my email phonetically

- If I forgot whole words, just play your own game of Mad Libs.

Clearly, including your name is pretty important. I hear some college students struggle with this simple task. Some people draw a line and then put their contact information under it. Some people have an automated signature with “Thanks!”. I don’t like this. I want my thanks to be hand typed – thank you very much. What do you do for your signature?

A Warning: If it includes a picture or a moving animation, I am not sure we can be friends anymore.


  1. I sign off my emails with Thanks, or if it's someone higher up with whom I have not communicated previously, I write Best regards, and then my automatic signature. My automatic signature is like this:

    Full Name
    Title - Market
    Snail Mail address
    My email (in case someone needs it to send an outside email outside the company - in the global address book it just shows our names, not our true email address).

    I HATE people who have flashing or moving .gifs in their signatures. I always get that "ActiveX could not display your image" error message when I get something like that from people. I've wanted to yell at people at 1,000 times for that.

    Also, how about people who put their signatures in 20 POINT FONT?

  2. I usually say Thank you! Thanks! or the occasional Take Care.

  3. I usually say Thank you! Thanks! or the occasional Take care.

  4. I'm a big fan of Take care (always typed, not part of the signature). My boss uses Ciao. My own work email signature pet peeve: quotations, particularly when accompanied by a rainbow of font colors and smiley faces.