What’s the point of signing off emails with words you don’t even mean?

Should we aim to stick as closely as possible to the conventions of traditional letter-writing? Or end emails with the actual last thing we want to say?


Does anything bring on the desire to thunk head on desk like mistakenly putting three kisses on the end of an email to your boss?

I think not. It’s the adult equivalent of calling your teacher “ Mummy” at school, a cheek-burning slip‑up that you won’t be allowed to forget in a hurry.

It has ruled the workplace for the past 20 years, but email is still a fraught business. Think of all of the incriminating messages read out in courtrooms, the sexy love notes that go viral, the number of times you cc the only person you meant to avoid. Most perilous of all is the sign-off. The options are bewildering – “ Best wishes”, or simply “Best”? Is it rude to shun an unwanted kiss? Strangely, for a means of communication based on efficiency, false fulsomeness rules. Why offer a limp “See you soon” when you could give your “Warmest regards”, your “Very best” or thank someone “A million”? And forget about LOL – it’s a minefield, as David Cameron knows.

This week, the New York writer Matthew Malady called for an amnesty on the “totally unnecessary words that we tack on to the end of emails”. We should, he said, simply end our emails “with the actual last thing we want to say”. It sounds sensible until you consider that what’s at stake is a simple “hello” at the start and a name at the end. Is any life so busy, so streamlined, that two words make a difference? Well, yes. If life is too busy to stand up and walk across the office to ask a colleague a question in person, it’s probably too busy for social niceties, too. But that doesn’t make it right.

Debrett’s warns that emails can be stored, shared and printed out to live on, just like ink and paper. Therefore, it advises, emailers should “aim to stick as closely as possible to the conventions of traditional letter-writing”. “Yours sincerely” may be too cumbersome to type, but it would be a shame if Gmail killed the sign-off. After all, a good goodbye is worth a thousand words. Just look at how Benjamin Franklin socked it to his one-time friend William Strahan in 1775:

“You and I were long Friends: – You are now my Enemy, – and

I am,


B Franklin.”


The head of the Royal Opera House has had it with divas acting like divas. Speaking to the press this week, Antonio Pappano raged against young singers who drop out of performing at the first hint of huskiness. Covent Garden has been plagued with cancellations over the last season with Juan Diego Florez and Marina Poplavskaya among the stars to have pulled out, citing health reasons. "There's something about this generation of singers who are either weaker in their bodies or just don't care", said Pappano. "For Domingo to cancel he would have to be on his deathbed."

True, Domingo only cancelled his appearance in Tamerlano in 2010 in order to have colon cancer surgery but there is nothing new here. Opera singers are not only the loudest but the sickliest of artists, as prone to no-shows and illness as footballers are to falls and groin strains. Like footballers, you might argue, they are tuned for perfection and singing with a sore throat could cause irreversible damage to their most precious asset. Nevertheless, sickies are a pernicious problem, leaving those in the stalls sorely disappointed. Should they, as Pappano suggests, man up?

That depends. I once had the misfortune of sitting down to The Pearl Fishers at the Coliseum to find that not only was the leading man, Alfie Boe, off sick, his understudy and his leading lady were suffering with the same bug. They both struggled through the first act. In the second act, the understudy finally gave up leaving a chorus member to step in and sing from the wings as his ailing alter ego mimed centre-stage. There's a fine line, it turns out, between 'The show must go on!' and 'Must the show go on?'

Twitter: @alicevjones

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

Guy Keleny

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own