The hardest part of writing an email is every part of the email. And it’s weird because email combines one thing I like (writing) with another thing I like (talking to people) but when you combine those two things together, the whole thing is as uncomfortable as a sandpaper swimsuit.
The struggle begins right away with the uncertain greeting. Do you say Hi? Hello? Howdy? Do you just go, "Name," and avoid it altogether?
“Hi” always feel like you’re about to deliver bad news.
Hi Jennifer – I’m sorry to inform you…
Every rejection letter I’ve ever received started with a Hi. When they go Hi, I go low.
“Hello” makes me feel like Seinfeld. Hello, Newman. And every time I use “Hey” I'm worried the president of the Junior Achievement club will kick down the door. “Hey?? Hey?! There’s no Hey in business! Hey is for horsing around.”
Then you get to the body of the email and every sentence here feels like, “Alright, here’s a sentence you can skip. Go ahead and skim through this part too." I'll usually throw in a question, which is the equivalent of saying, ‘Tag, you’re it!’ Now you have to respond.
The body of an email does some strange things to us. We start saying things like, "Re." Re: your last email. Re? What, now we're in a rush? We have time to write a whole email but not the time to write the word "regarding?" Or how about "please advise." I feel like I have to put on a suit and tie before I can even type the words "please advise."
Which leads us to the uncertain finale. When writing the last line of an email it’s all about, “how best do I stumble across the finish line?”
“I look forward to hearing back from you.” Do any of us really mean this? Has anyone received a reply to their email and shouted, “Clear my afternoon. They emailed me back! Man, I was looking forward to this!"
“Thank you for your time already.” That’s just another way of saying, “I’m sorry you had to spend five minutes reading my email."
If you go with “Thanks!” Or “Thank you!” you have to go back and check on the number of exclamation points. May have to reallocate one from the “Hello Bob!” at the beginning so you don't go over quota.
"Sincerely" is far too formal. A sincerely makes the reader feel like they have to print out a copy of the email and read it by the fire. I've seen a few people use "Ciao" but that implies you went on a two-week vacation and aren't ready to give up Europe. And then my favorite of the awkward endings has got to be "Warm regards." Sounds like the name of a bakery or a questionable massage parlor. Also makes me wonder, does anyone send cold regards? Smokin' hot regards? What makes them warm?
But I received an email the other day that completely broke the mold. No awkwardness at all. And all it took was one word at the end. Looking back on it, I don't remember how they started the email, what was in the body, or what was in the subject line. But that ending. It was a masterpiece. They closed it with one word and a cool comma:
I looked at that word for a few moments. There's so much swagger to it. It's the email equivalent of riding off on a motorcycle. If you start an email with "Hey" and close it with "Cheers," the Junior Achievement president might faint. Cheers?? Cheers?! What, are you sending over a keg now too?!
So, like seeing a fedora and thinking, "Hey, I think I could pull that off," I decided I was going to use Cheers at the end of my next email. I stumbled through the subject line. Hit some gridlock with the greeting. Babbled my way through the body of the email. And there it was. The closing line.
I walked to the end of the diving board. The high dive, fifteen feet above the ground. I looked down at the swimming pool below. I could hear my wife shout out, "Just use a sincerely, we have a mortgage to pay!" A sweet elderly lady cried out, "Don't forget to pack a warm regards." I reached into my sandpaper swimsuit pocket, unfolded a note from my parents. It read, "Ciao" with a photo of them in Italy.
I took a deep breath. Closed my eyes. Slowly typed the word "cheers." Send. Jump off the diving board. Full speed ahead.
A couple of seconds went by. Waiting. Waiting some more. The panic began to sink in. What was I thinking? How do I recall an email?! I.T. Please! Do something!
But there it was. One new message in the inbox. I opened up the reply.
Welp, turns out I misspelled their email address. Cheers may be the coolest way to dive into the email pool, but it looks like my first attempt ended in a belly flop.
Medium Rare normally goes up on Monday mornings but I was running a little behind after Easter weekend. Next week will be another edition of the monthly series "Please, Take This Idea," where I'll introduce an idea for a podcast/show that is totally free for the taking. I'm also going to throw in two food-related inventions as well. Thanks for stopping by and see you next week!