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

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

Website Editor

£15 - £17 Per Hour: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently r...

Nursery Assistant Plymouth

£23500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Qualified Nursery nurs...

Primary Teachers needed for supply in Ipswich

£21552 - £31588 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: We are looking to rec...

Primary Supply teaching jobs in Stowmarket

£21552 - £31588 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education ar...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Ed Miliband is so scared of becoming Tony Blair he has forgotten how to communicate

Lance Price
Young Syrian refugees gather around a small fire at the Minieh camp in Lebanon  

Cameron and Obama may want to ‘destroy’ Isis, but what will they do about the growing number of refugees fleeing Iraq and Syria?

Kate Allen
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments