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"Best" Justly Slammed by New York Times

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Vindication at last. Lola Ogunnaike writes:
Mr. Troutwine is not alone in thinking that an e-mail sender who writes “Best,” then a name, is offering something close to a brush-off. He said he chooses his own business sign-offs in a descending order of cordiality, from “Warmest regards” to “All the best” to a curt “Sincerely.”
When Kim Bondy, a former CNN executive, e-mailed a suitor after a dinner date, she used one of her preferred closings: “Chat soon.” It was her way of saying, “The date went well, let’s do it again,” she said.
She may have been the only one who thought that. The return message closed with the dreaded “Best.” It left her feeling as though she had misread the evening. “I felt like, ‘Oh, that’s kind of formal. I don’t think he liked me,’ ” she said, laughing. “A chill came with the ‘Best.’ ” They have not gone out since.
“Best” does have its fans, especially in the workplace, where it can be an all-purpose step up in warmth from messages that end with no sign-off at all, just the sender coolly appending his or her name.
“I use ‘Best’ for all of my professional e-mails,” said Kelly Brady, a perky publicist in New York. “It’s friendly, quick and to the point.”
“Perky publicist”! That’s catty for the NYT, but it speaks volumes. (It’s the perky and the alliteration, publicist friends, not the publicist alone.) I do use “Best” myself, by the way. If you see it (with work-related exceptions), or the even more dreaded blank subject line, it is not an ambiguous sign.


“Best” is context-dependent, and particularly ambiguous, therefore, in emails. For that reason I never use it, myself. When very angry, I even feel too sorry for the person who’d read it. In the context of a dispute or a question of sentiment, it’s like delivering a slap in the face.

I do wish we had sign-off’s like the French do, in the vein of “I beg you to kindly agree to approve of the expression of my very highest consideration.” The more outlandishly formal it is, the more insulting, but also more amusing — as one can appreciate a good insult! But as a stiff brush-off, nothing beats just signing your full name. (And rank and serial number, as the case may be!) It’s unmisunderstandable.

My prefered expression of affection is, as ever, “As ever,” and “Yours.”

sputter But I use “Best” with everything and I don’t mean anything negative with it. Curses, what will I do now?

Our English clients say “Kind regards.” I generally say “Regards.” Sometimes, “Your Obed. Serv’t.”

I’m with Jasmin on this.

i hate when people sign emails “cheers.” it seems to be, like, required among publishing and literary types, doesn’t it? it’s like, bitch, you’re not english! get over it!

I have to admit I do it sometimes (I’m half-Canadian and my dad was raised abroad; is that a get-out-of-jail-free card?), but am liking “Warmly” and “All the best” and other (e.g., more specific to the conversation) options these days. By the way, I suspect you’re about to find my “no writing in lowercase letters!” post, so I hope you’re not offended. In blog comments, for instance, it’s absolutely fine with me.

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2008 Webby Awards Official Honoree