Email technology has its origins in the hazy days of the 1970s, but it wasn’t until the late 1990s, when email became an accessible communication tool thanks to early webmail services, that the question of etiquette was raised. For people who were used to communicating via telephone, the return to the written word was looked at as an opportunity to revive more formal and carefully constructed language.
A 1998 editorial piece published in The Washington Post advised readers to save email for scheduling meetings and sharing research, but to use traditional mail for professional matters. The author noted that emails were too ephemeral and tone-deaf to convey important information. At the time, email was considered to be something for the younger crowd, and people worried that abbreviations like “IMHO” and “TTYL” would be misunderstood by recipients. In 1999, CBS told its viewers to avoid using “smilies,” which “are cute, but confusing.”
In an ironic twist, those “confusing” emojis somewhat solved the issue of tone-deaf writing. Now, a smiley face can clarify a sarcastic phrase or make it clear when you’re telling a joke. Plus, emojis are in the dictionary now, so just try arguing with that.
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Funny vs formal: When to use humor in business correspondence
Email etiquette has changed a lot since the dial-up days, and humor is more acceptable in a business setting. Obviously you don’t want to load your contracts with emojis, but there is more leeway when writing prospecting emails and similar sales correspondence.
On the whole, modern leaders have seen the benefits of incorporating humor and business. In fact, 79% of CFOs say that humor plays an important role in how well employees fit in with the company culture.
Using humor when you write a professional email is an opportunity to show off your wit and creativity, which can make others more empathetic toward you. Email can be tone-deaf and impersonal, but a little comedic effort humanizes the sender in the eyes of the recipient. Even as artificial intelligence takes on more business responsibilities, it still can’t consistently make up good jokes or witty one-liners.
Having a sense of humor can make you more approachable. Ending an email on a funny note leaves a good impression, even if it’s not a gut-buster. The next time you’re sending an email to a prospect, client or colleague, use these entertaining closing salutations to inspire your writing:
1. G2G, bye!
Congrats, millennials, we’re the largest generation in the workforce, and that means we get to revive our old AOL Instant Messenger away messages. Whether you were getting called to the dinner table or your parents had just opened your school report card and you needed to find somewhere to hide fast, “G2G, bye!” was one of the quickest ways to exit a chat.
Save this golden oldie for quick messages to prospects who are likely to understand the reference. It creates a sense of urgency without getting too pushy. Plus, an abrupt “G2G” can leave your recipients wanting more information about the cool offer you were just beginning to explain when you were called away by Super Important Business.
2. Peace out
Send your recipients some good vibes with a casual “Peace out!” at the end of your next email. They (read: baby boomers) say that hippie slang never goes out of style. And while you probably don’t want to rock a tie-dyed tee at your next in-person sales call, you can get away with injecting a bit of peace and love into your business correspondence.
This is also, like, a great spot to add an emoji if you’re feeling it, man. No pressure.
3. Live long and prosper
The traditional Vulcan closing salutation accompanied by a raised hand () actually predates the use of the peace hand sign. Pretty neat, huh?
“Star Trek” has millions of fans of all ages across the globe, so you can be reasonably sure your recipients will understand this sign-off. And even if you do happen to email someone who has been living under a rock for the past 50 years, it’s still a pleasant sentiment. And it sounds a lot better than the Klingon farewell: “Qapla’!”
4. May the Force be with you
On the other side of the fandom, we have the traditional Jedi farewell from “Star Wars.” It’s a phrase that expresses your goodwill and wishes the recipient good luck. Try using this sign-off when you’re helping a prospect to solve a challenge. Master Kenobi would be proud.
Bonus tip: This one works well when you start off your email with a congenial, “Hello there.”
5. So long, and thanks for all the fish
If any of your colleagues have a sticker of the number 42 on their laptop or desk, you’ll definitely get a chuckle out of them with this sign-off inspired by “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”
While this sendoff was the parting message of the dolphins as they fled Earth before its complete destruction, you don’t need to save it for situations quite so dire. If you and your recipient are close enough to banter via email, then this fishy farewell is a fun way to express your gratitude.
6. See you later, alligator
What a classic. What an absolute masterpiece of a parting salutation. Most of us have carefully practiced this two-part farewell since we were first learning to wave goodbye. Like a tennis pro lobbing a ball high into the clear air, the phrase beautifully sets up the reader to return the expected, “in a while, crocodile.”
There have been many imitators of animal-based adieus – “bye-bye butterfly,” “gotta go buffalo,” “see you soon, baboon” – but their weak internal rhymes are no match for the call-and-response nature of the original.
7. Stay frosty
This military valediction can be used to mean “stay alert” or “be cool” and is often used by fans of the movie “Aliens” as a parting phrase. It’s even been adopted by members of the Marine Corps.
You may not be facing off against a hive of xenomorphs, but the corporate world does have its own risks. In a business setting, it may be appropriate to use this farewell when you and your recipient are about to tackle a new project or challenge.
8. Tag, you’re it
All sales people have been in this situation: You’re prospecting for clients and you know that you have a valuable product or service – but no one is biting. You send carefully worded emails and yet receive no responses.
Give your recipients a tag and see if anyone tags you back. When you’ve tried the formal way and it’s not working, what do you have to lose with a harmless gimmick?
9. Are you still reading this?
There was once a college professor who would give exams with very long written instructions. Most students skipped reading them because they thought they understood how to take a test. However, the next day when the professor was going over the answers, he revealed that within the instructions was the sentence, “If you don’t want to take the test, just sign your name and leave the rest blank for full credit.”
What if you hid a special promotion at the very end of your email – something just for the people who took the time to read the whole message? It’ll make them feel special – and superior to email skimmers – and you may just get more responses.
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10. Smell ya later!
Actually, no, don’t use this one.
Have you ever received a piece of business correspondence that actually made you laugh out loud? Give us the details in the comments.