Before you send your next email, have you thought about your email signoff?

Best? Cheers? Sincerely? Later, gator?

Email correspondence evolved from letters, where formal salutations at the beginning and end of each missive, were the norm. After all, sending letters was a big deal.

"The handwritten letters people sent included information of great import and sometimes functioned as the only communication with family members and other loved ones for months," writes Matthew J.X. Malady in Slate. "In that case, it made sense to go to town, to get flowery with it. Then, a formal signoff was entirely called for."

But these days? We may fire off dozens of emails to coworkers, friends and family members in a day. Sometimes we barely take the time to form cohesive sentences, much less consider a witty or socially acceptable parting phrase.

What's the best signoff?

So, is there one great email catchall to cover all your bases including colleagues, friends and family?

Bloomberg Business writer Rebecca Greenfield says it seems as if it's "Best" — but she suggests people stop using it. Though she admits the word is safe and inoffensive, Greenfield also notes that it's way too common.

Although a 2003 University of Pennsylvania study found that just 5 percent of respondents used "Best" to sign off emails, Greenfield says that in her admittedly unscientific online survey, 75 percent of her friends and coworkers used "Best" or "Thanks," though nobody particularly likes it.

So how do you choose?

Greenfield shoots down most of the popular options.

“Yours” sounds too Hallmark. “Warmest regards” is too effusive. “Thanks” is fine, but it’s often used when there’s no gratitude necessary. “Sincerely” is just fake — how sincere do you really feel about sending along those attached files? “Cheers” is elitist. Unless you’re from the U.K., the chipper closing suggests you would’ve sided with the Loyalists.
Etiquette expert Diane Gottsman, founder of The Protocol School of Texas, disagrees. She doesn't mind "Best," and is a big fan of "Sincerely" in business situations. "If you're writing a professional email, you want to stay professional. The close of an email should always be representative of the relationship you share," she says.

Gottsman suggests that an email's closing is important because "it's part of your brand. It's who you are."

Outside of business relationships, feel free to be creative, she says. For example, Gottsman has a friend who ends her emails "Cheering you on."

"She works in a support type of environment, and I smile every time I see it," she says. "I feel you can use your personality on some closings when it's appropriate."

stumped by the signoff

Your email signoff offers clues about your personality — but don't sweat it. You've got options. (Photo: Ivan Kruk/Shutterstock)

A plethora of choices

Lest you think you don't have many ending options, Forbes career and jobs writer Susan Adams compiled 89 ways to sign off on an email. They range from the benign ("Regards," "Thanks," "Warmly") to the creative ("High five from down low," "Take it easy bro"). The list includes emoticons, disclaimers and abbreviations. You could also try "Peace," "Make it a great day" or the ubiquitous "Sent from my smartphone."

Whatever you pick for your final words, Adams offers four general rules for signing off emails:

1. Don’t include quotes. They bog down emails and take up the reader's time.

2. Avoid oversized corporate logos, if you can. They draw the eye away from the message.

3. Include your title and contact info, but keep it short.

4. Include some kind of signoff only in the first email in a chain.

Or you could say nothing

So if the signoff is not that critical, should we just skip it altogether and sign the email simply with our name?

Not so fast, says the founder and leader of consulting group Insight, Justin Bariso, writing for Inc.

"Just as you would normally not end a spoken conversation without saying good-bye, you shouldn't do it with email (barring a few exceptions)…The signoff is the last thing the recipient reads — so it can be the 'cherry on top,' so to speak. Done right, it's like the motivating conclusion at the end of a really great presentation."

Related on MNN:

Mary Jo DiLonardo Mary Jo writes about everything from health to parenting — and anything that helps explain why her dog does what he does.