Five tips for a happy email life

Scrolling idly through Facebook (in a way in which I had sworn I would not do), an article about the best way to end off an email surfaced.

The article is long, and too detailed… so I will tell you the punchline: the recommendation is to end emails with the word “Best”, followed by your name. It is said to be one of “the safest possible choices, inoffensive, and almost universally appropriate.”


My own favourite – “Regards” – is either hateful, or nice but too formal, according to these experts.

Now, I am widely regarded as a queen of email. I send a lot of it, all as clearly written as I can make it. I filter my mail, I always answer if an answer is required – essentially, I tend to the whole thing as carefully as I tend to my garden.

I even teach a class in writing emails at a local high school’s adult education programme.

I don’t think “Best” is a good way to end an email – particularly in South Africa. It’s just not a way of speaking or writing that resonates here. In my class on emails writing, I tell people to use “Regards” in business emails, and I am going to stick with that.

My class at the high school is two hours long – and covers a lot of ground. But if I were to extract my top tips, this is what my list would be:

  • Don’t do email. Seriously. Make a phone call or go and talk to the person if you can – email is not always the only way to communicate!
  • Always write a subject line – otherwise you are rudely expecting your reader to open the email to see what it is about. Your recipient is busy, busy, busy just like you: respect that.
  • Do check that you have entered the right address. You know why.
  • Check the body of your email for spelling and grammar before you send it.
  • Most importantly – put yourself in the recipient’s shoes – what do they already know, and what information do they need? And make it clear what you want people to do – if you want them to reply to the email, say so!

Above all: remember that the person you are writing to is flesh and blood – play nice.

And give them your regards.

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