If you’re anything like us, you’ve stared blankly at your email screen, mentally debating which sign-off is best for your message. Is ‘sincerely’ too much? Does ‘best regards’ seem dismissive and cold? Is there ever a time-and-a-place for an ‘Xoxo’? Many otherwise confident professionals struggle with how to close an email, by stressing over words and punctuation alike. While we don’t want to add more anxiety to your tank, executive and CEO of Sunrise Banks, David Reiling says there’s no denying the importance of this line of text. “It’s the final impression you make — and just like first impressions, your closing remarks can mean a lot to the person on the other end of the conversation,” he explains. “Ending an email well can mean the start of a strong working relationship; stumbling on your final words could mean you don’t get a response.”

Here, some tips on how to perfect this wordsmith talent:

Include a call to action 

Think about the dozens or promotional emails hanging out in your inbox right about now. Whether it’s a flash sale on your favorite household products or a percentage-off to incentivize you to sign up for a membership, all of these messages have something in common: a call-to-action. CTA for short, this phrase is all-too-important in digital marketing, since it helps to identify what language works to entice customers to make a purchase. You can use this same approach when writing your own emails to clients and colleagues. As industrial-organizational psychology practitioner and workplace expert Amy Cooper Hakim, Ph.D. explains, if you just sign an email without a CTA, the reader may not know what to expect next. By using this tactic, you give the recipient a head’s up and a guide to determine the next steps. Some examples provided by Hakim include:

“Please contact me if I may be of further assistance”: This lets the reader know that you are available and keeps the conversation open. 

“If I don’t hear back by Tuesday at 5 pm, I’ll assume that we are good to go”: This lets the reader know the date by which she needs to provide any requested changes to the plan discussed in the email. 

Include the necessary contact information.

If you receive an email to confirm a meeting, yet the sender didn’t provide a dial-in number for a conference call, what do you do? Probably, you’ll follow-up to better understand how the discussion will be had, and the best way to get in touch. You can avoid this confusion — and frankly, frustration — by prioritizing contact information in your email closings, according to Reiling. Though sure, this information is often embedded in our work email signature, it never hurts to include it again, or throw in a link to ‘Check my email signature for the best number to reach me’ — so their attention is directed toward the bottom. Also, if you’re the type of professional who is admittedly particular about how they’re contacted, make sure to make that known, so you can avoid any uncomfortable or irksome exchanges. Some examples include:

“I look forward to chatting with you on Tuesday. Please give me a call at 555-5555. Thanks!”: This is clear, concise and effective.

“Please direct the completed presentation and all meeting notes to [email protected] so we can keep track of all information. I appreciate this extra step. Thanks!”: This encourages the sender to follow instructions as directed. 

Choose the closing word or phrase carefully. 

More stressful than how to close an email with a sentence, signing off with a single word can feel terrifying. As Hakim shares, there are many ways to approach the very last thing you type before your name, and sadly, nothing is a perfect science. The best way to ensure you stay professional and never disrespectful is to come up with a system, based on your relationship with the other person. And perhaps more to the point: what matches your personal brand. Here, a few ideas from Hakim:

‘Best wishes, Joe’ or ‘Cheers, Joe’: This is a casual and upbeat way to end an email, and you might choose this type of closing to promote a light or casual dialogue. 

‘Looking forward, Jane’ or ‘Can’t wait, Jane’: Once you get to know someone — whether employee, employer or clients, this can be used since it illustrates a comfortable, established relationship. 

‘Sincerely, Kate’ or ‘Respectfully, Kate’: This reflects a more serious or formal tone, and is appropriate when you do not know the person well, or when you want to aim for the epitome of professionalism.

Originally published on Ladders.

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