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Sign On/Sign Off

Like a good movie, the beginning and end of an email message tend to draw the most attention and stick in the memory. At Business Writing That Counts! we help writers learn to craft better email subject lines, greetings, sign-offs and all the content between.

It's easy to focus on the body of an email, and that's OK. But it also helps to go back and make sure your "sign-on," or greeting and subject, and the sign-off are effective, causing readers to act and appearing in the appropriate tone.

Subject Line

Writing an effective subject line is at the top of the list, because no matter how you greet a recipient or close the message, only the subject line encourages recipients to open the email in the first place. In brief, a subject line needs to be concise and to the point. It's helpful to use a little bit of creativity or a "tease," but not if you veer too far from the topic or action at hand.

Sometimes, it is easier to write the subject line after you've composed the main message; this ensures that you stay focused on the topic.


The email greeting should use the recipient's name whenever possible. You can certainly do this for individual messages and can find ways to merge fields for personalizing bulk messages through email or contact management software.

Aside from naming the recipient, keep your greeting simple and in sync with the tone of the message. For example, a somber message about a colleague in the hospital should not begin with a happy or flippant tone. Avoid being overly formal (or informal) in any message. "Dear sir or madam" is too formal and indicates you have not taken the time to consider to whom you are writing.

"Dear xxx," and "Hi" or "Hello" are good old standards you can rely on. Remember, the greeting sets the tone for the message to follow.

Sign Off

Likewise, match your sign-off to the overall tone. Again, most standard sign-off words such as "Sincerely," "Best regards," or "All the best" are safe for most occasions. For best effect, have a call to action as the last sentence/paragraph before your sign-off and match the close to that call to action. "Looking forward to …" implies you expect to hear from the person relative to your call to action, whether it is a reply to your question or the act of calling you to quote a service.


Be sure to include a signature block as part of your sign-off on all original emails. Include your full name, title, company name, address, phone number, and email address. You can target the signature for internal emails and external messages to customers. If appropriate, include a company logo or tagline and your social media links. But don't clutter the signature, and despite having your name listed in the block, always type your full or first name with your sign-off.

Make email sign-ons and sign-offs work for, not against, by taking our online courses and webinars and other comprehensive program, including our licensing program. With this program, you can train a trainer within your organization to help improve all employees' email writing. Learn more on the Business Writing That Counts! website or give us a call at (425)-485-3221.

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