How to write good emails (remember the reader)

I recently did some research into the best way to sign off a business email, for an article for a client.

It appears that “Regards” is a strong contender – because it is bland and inoffensive. That works well in a formal context because you might often not know the person you are writing to.

On the other hand, a 2019 Business Insider article claims that the word “Best” is a good way to end an email (followed by your name). The article says it is “almost universally appropriate.” I am not so sure. 

I write a lot of email, each one 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.

And I don’t think “best” is a good way to end an email in South Africa. It’s just not a way of speaking or writing that resonates here. Because our country has so many languages and so many dialects of those languages, I think it’s best to use an email signature that is as widely understood as possible. And that is probably the word “regards”. 

In this, I am sticking with a mantra of mine: when writing the most important person in the process is not the writer – it’s the reader


1. Put yourself in the recipient’s shoes. Ask yourself:

what do they already know?

what information do they need? 

2. Make it clear what you want people to do – if you want them to reply to the email, say so! And if multiple people are on the address list, use the @ sign in the email to indicate who you are talking to. (“@Ayesha – could you please edit the report?”)

3. But don’t ask for too many things. In a long life, I’ve observed that most people will only answer one question in any given email. So don’t put in a long list of tasks and requests. If the email is too complicated, you should consider communicating in some other way.

4. Remember that the person you are writing to is flesh and blood – just be polite. Please and thank you go a long way


1. A radical thought: don’t write that 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!

2. 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.

3. Do check that you have entered the right address. You know why.

4. Check the body of your email for spelling and grammar before you send it.

Main picture: Brett Jordan, Unsplash

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Contact me if you would like to chat about how I can help with all your communication needs (writing, editing, coaching and training, social media). I also help small businesses and organisations with project and operational management. 

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