Sarah Britten
Sarah Britten

Kind regards or best wishes?

It remains a sad fact of life as a social animal that every encounter with another human being presents an opportunity for being misunderstood. This is why social events are awkward, as are greetings of any kind, hugs in general, mouth kissing, questions over coffee vs drinks – and email sign-offs.

Have you ever reached the end of a mail and wondered, how the hell do I end this thing? Even David Cameron got confused, thinking that LOL meant Lots of Love until it was pointed to him that he had got it, um, wrong.

One ending is not equally suitable for all mails, and there are so many choices. These include, but are not limited to:

Kind regards. The standard I rely on for business correspondence. Polite, but a way of indicating lack of anything beyond friendship and therefore rather passive aggressive. Kind regards actually means “I don’t know you from Adam but I’ll pretend I care”. Some people like to live on the edge and use “warm regards” instead. Closely related to kind regards is

Regards. Also a useful catch-all suitable for most purposes, but with one important caveat: I don’t know about you, but if I receive mail from someone I know, and it’s signed off “Kind regards”, “Regards” or any variation on the above, I feel rather affronted. I would never use any of these for colleagues or clients who happen to be friends.

Best wishes. I seldom use this one, and never really know what to make of it. It seems slightly less formal than any of the variations of regards.

All the best sounds strangely apologetic, as though you’re waving goodbye to an intrepid war reporter who’s off on a dangerous mission to the Hindu Kush, one from which he’s unlikely to return.

Best etc. My thesis supervisor used to use this in mails. There’s a rather appealingly Waspish avoidance of emotion in this one, though liable to be interpreted as somewhat perfunctory.

Thanks so much. One I use often, either as a way to sound polite or grateful or both. I often use it when I’m asking for something but don’t want to come across as rude, as in “Dear So-and-so, How is the project going? It’s been a while since I’ve had an update. Please let me know what’s happening. Thanks so much, Sarah.” This is code for: “Dear so-and-so, why the hell haven’t I heard anything? Please consider this a kick up the backside. I am royally peeved, Sarah.”

Thanks. Less strenuous version of “thanks so much”. If I’m asking for something, and there’s been a bit of back and forth, this is what I use.

Ciao, Cheerio. I rely on these for relatively informal communication with people with whom I’m on friendly terms. Jaunty, but (hopefully) not overfamiliar.

Have a wonderful day/evening/week/weekend. This is me trying to be vaguely original and mildly nice and probably failing miserably.

Then we get to the people I know well. The funny thing is, the better I know you, the less likely I am to bother with either greetings or goodbyes. For people I am close to, I dispense with sign-offs altogether. This then brings in the question of whether to end a piece of written communication with Sarah or S and
x
xx
xxx
☺ or
X

That, of course, is a minefield of potential misunderstandings in its own right. At what point, for example, does one cross the threshold between xx and xxx? And what happens if I err on the side of enthusiasm? I honestly don’t know, and probably never will.

Thank you for reading this.

Have a wonderful week,

Sarah

PS I was intending to be the zillionth blogger to upload something about the Spear of the Nation. But I’m not sure I can add anything useful or interesting to the debate, so I’m sticking to the shallow and unimportant escapist stuff instead.

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