Sincerely. Regards. From. Ta ta for now. Your favorite nephew. When it comes to how to end an email, there are many options. Sure, there are some definite no-nos, like signing a letter to your boss with “Love,” but other than that, it is really just a matter of preference, right? It is a chance to show off your personal style. Well, to a certain extent of course, that is true. If your goal is to elicit a smile or a chuckle, by all means, sign your email with “toodles.” But what if your goal is to get a response? Can your closing make a difference?
It turns out that yes, the way you end an email can make a difference in your chances of receiving a reply. We looked at the closings in over 350,000 email threads. The baseline response rate was 47.5%. Some closings, like “best,” showed a slight increase in response rate, “thanks in advance” proved the most effective closing for getting a response – boasting a response rate of 65.7%!
Of the 8 most popular closings in our sample, the 3 closings which the highest response ratings all had “thanks” or “thank you” in them. “Thanks in advance” was the highest response rate at 65.7%, while “thank you” had a 57.9% response rate of 57.9%, and “thanks” came in in the middle at 63%.
The benefits of expressions of gratitude is something examined in a 2010 study by Grant & Gino, titled “A Little Thanks Goes a Long Way.” In the study, 69 students got one of two emails asking for help with a cover letter. Half received an email that included the line “Thank you so much!” while the other half received a similar email without an expression of gratitude. The group that received the expression of gratitude voluntarily helped 66% of the time, while the second group only helped 32% of the time.
Of the 8 most popular closings in our sample, the 3 closings which the highest response ratings all had “thanks” or “thank you” in them.
Why is “thank you in advance” so effective? One theory is that it puts the onus on the recipient. By saying thanks in advance the sender isn’t asking the recipient to do something, but is setting the expectation that the recipient will complete the task. It is slightly more forceful, and should be used with discretion. It would most likely be ill advised to close with “thanks in advance” when asking someone out via online dating, for example.
And discretion, ultimately, is the name of the game. There is no one size fits all closing. You need to look at your goals and the situation. And there is something to be said for maintaining your own authentic voice. Awkwardly forcing something isn’t going to do you any favors. As much as we study email writing and try to implement best practices, there will always be the artistic side as well – the human element, if you will.
Ultimately, writing emails, like writing letters, is a skill. More importantly, it is a skill that can be honed. While you’ll probably never reach a 100% reply rate (everyone has to email their cable company, sometimes), by looking critically at emails, you can learn a lot not just about yourself but also about the people you communicate with. Take that knowledge and use it to improve your writing – knowing your audience is an important part of crafting a quality email!
If you’re feeling overwhelmed – don’t worry, technology can help, too! That is why we offer Respondable. Respondable uses machine learning to rate your emails in different areas, like tone and reading level, giving you gentle reminders on areas you might want to focus on. Respondable also gives an overall score of how likely it is your email will receive a response. Respondable can give you valuable insight into your personal writing style, but it doesn’t seek to control you. Respondable is a way to inform your own judgment, not a replacement for it. Just because Respondable tells you that angry email calling your boss an idiot is very likely to get a response, well – that doesn’t mean you should send it!