Over and out – the language of sign offs

Published 24th November 2017
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‘How should I sign off this email?’ I found myself thinking this the other day when I was in the process of sending a message to a friendly acquaintance. It wasn’t formal enough for my usual sign off ‘Best wishes’ but I couldn’t put nothing at all. I went through my options – kind regards, yours, regards, best, all good wishes – on and on went the list until I decided that a simple ‘Thanks’ would fit the bill.

Perhaps unsurprisingly this is something which many of us do on a daily basis. You get used to a standard sign off, maybe it’s even part of the company style, but when it comes to personal use it’s different.
Is it because we don’t write letters as much? Or maybe because usually an ‘x’ will do the trick as a way to sign off?

Social media, particularly Facebook, has made it easier not to use salutations. With your name displayed above your message the recipient immediately knows who it’s from and often messages receive instant replies so a sign off would be deemed unnecessary. How many times have you signed off a message on Facebook?

The invention of the 140 character message is another example of how our communication channels are much more informal. Similar to the telegram, which relied on decoding short messages, Twitter uses a character limit to encourage users to focus on a key message.

On the surface, sign offs are just another little item to add to the many wonders of language however they are quite significant to our daily professional lives, just as your identity is. In our personal lives, a sign off is not particularly important especially when many of our written communications are instant and therefore become a continuous conversation rather than being marked with a beginning and end, like letters.

Meanwhile, phone calls and voicemails rely heavily on an opening and closing, however there are no visual clues to help identify the person, other than caller ID. I have never answered a call and had someone start the conversation immediately, as that would be deemed rude.

Such intricacies begin overlapping with etiquette and social norms which are starting to change in order to encompass our increasingly digitalised and ever- changing social interactions. For the time being, salutations and sign offs look like they’ll be staying around.

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