How to end an email (if you want a reply)

FullSizeRenderHow do you end your emails? It turns out some closers are more likely to get a response than others.

Boomerang, an email app that allows you to schedule and manage messages, analyzed thousands of messages sent to twenty different online communities. While some people have their own unique closers, certain phrases appear far more often than others: best, sincerely, cheers, regards, thanks, etc.

The average email in the sample got a 47.5% response rate. Those that used the phrase “thanks in advance,” though, got a 65.7% response rate. Other variations on this theme also did well: “thanks” got responses 63.0% of the time, and “thank you” got a response rate of 57.9%. “Best,” by comparison, came in at 51.2%.

One probably doesn’t want to read too much into such things. Maybe emails that end with an expression of thanks are more likely to about things that specifically need a response, whereas a “best” or “regards” email might be more informational (though Boomerang’s use of online communities, where people were often posting to ask for help or advice, meant that a high proportion of messages were probably written in hopes of a reply). But perhaps, a prior expression of gratitude for a requested response — that is, “thanks in advance” — triggers a feeling of obligation in the part of the recipient. I’ve already been thanked, so now I need to do this thing.

Maybe “thanks” turns out to be a magic word after all.

How do you end your emails? I sign my newsletters “All the best,” but those usually aren’t requesting anything. Maybe if I send emails asking people to do something, I’ll switch to “thanks in advance.” It’s worth a try!

18 thoughts on “How to end an email (if you want a reply)

  1. I end almost all of my emails with “Thanks.” I find that the emails that are brief and end with a specific question (i.e. “What was John’s salary for 2016?”) get the best responses.

    1. @CNM – I imagine if one analyzed all emails, short, with a specific question sent to someone you know would have pretty close to the top response rate. Probably because a lot of people would find it rude not to answer a specific question from someone you know! I know that shorter (but not too short) emails get a higher response rate than long emails – that was courtesy either Boomerang or Sandbox.

  2. If I want someone to do something for me in a timely manner and it is extra work for them and they may say no, I always use “thanks in advance”. If its part of their routine job (so they can’t say no), but still I need something done, its “thanks” or “thank you”
    “Best” is when I don’t need anything.

    1. @Ana- I was surprised by the difference between “thanks in advance” and a simple “thank you.” I never really liked the “thanks in advance” phrase, but it seems I should probably get over that.

    2. I’ve always felt that “thanks in advance” was great for the person saying it – it’s the end of that project for them because they have already asked for and thanked me for something that I have not agreed to do. But it makes me feel taken advantage of, if that makes sense, I know there will be no “thank you” after I have done the job.

      1. I agree, Cathy. “Thanks in advance” makes me feel put upon as well as the “beneficiary” of communication studies advice. But it’s advice that apparently works in the sense of producing a response.

      2. YES! I always feel weird about that phrase – it seems so presumptuous because you’ve asked for something and essentially assume that they’ll do it. That being said, I do use it at work and it does seem to work 🙂

        I’ve also found that putting the question/request last helps too, otherwise people forget about the question if you put all the background/chatty stuff at the end of the message 😀

  3. I end mine with “Thanks”. Sometimes “Thanks!” if I’m asking for something. I’ve learned to also cut my emails in half from what I generally start with and get the question up front. I minimize explanation unless truly needed. If they care, they’ll ask why. I think women especially tend to over-explain. When I compare my emails against the males I work with, there’s definitely a different tone unless I work at it.

    1. @Joanna- email tone is hard to get right. While I agree it’s best not to get chatty, you do want to aim more positive than feels natural. One email expert I interviewed told me that the default tone of email is negative, so even neutral statements come across as harsh or critical. So now I write my emails, and then often go in and revise slightly, as if happy bubbly Laura wrote them.

  4. I’m not a fan of “Thanks in advance.” If I need a reply, I put the question/request upfront after an upbeat opener. I end with “Thanks.” I’m not a fan of “Best,” either. I just end and sign off with my first name.

  5. As the female recipient of many short(terse?) emails from some male colleagues who obviously can’t be bothered to type anything longer or spell check what they have typed the response they get (and how long it takes me to respond) is definitely affected by my feelings on receiving them. Yes, cut out some verbiage, but short is not always good.

    1. Hehe – I had to ask my (introvert, software engineer) husband to include a greeting in his emails to my parents instead of just launching into whatever he needed to say 🙂 And also, including something to sign off the message as well. And now he does this for me too, which is a nice side effect 🙂

  6. I tend to use “Thanks” a lot. Even in emails where I have given information and not asked anything! A quirk I keep an eye on if there is a better closing phrase to use, but I think “Thanks/Thank you” has become a pretty universal or generic way to end a conversation. It doesn’t always mean “thanks” anymore.

  7. I’ve never really thought about it before! I think I just say “thanks” most of the time, or sometimes just “regards”. It depends on the email really. But maybe I’ll try the “thanks in advance” thing if I want the recipient to do something for me 🙂

  8. I’m sure that Rebels (on Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies framework) would be irritated by the “thanks in advance” ending but it doesn’t bother me one way or the other (I”m an Upholder like you, Laura).

    I sign off “Thank you so much!” which is exactly how I speak so I think (hope?) people feel my authenticity.

  9. I always sign emails with “Thanks” and sometimes add an exclamation point if I’m asking for something or the email is otherwise short, so that it doesn’t sound abrupt. I can’t stand it when people sign off with “Best.” That has always struck me as smug and smarmy. “All the best” is much nicer!

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