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How To Know When It’s Okay To Write Less Formal Work Emails

Source | FastCompany : By STACEY GAWRONSKI, THE MUSE

You know how it goes. You begin the email to your boss, colleague, client, or HR director with a proper greeting. You cross your Ts and dot your Is, and you conclude the message with a formal signature such as “Best” or “Sincerely.”

The email recipient responds with the same formality, addressing you in a standard greeting, and then writing out a couple of grammatically sound paragraphs before wrapping up the note with a similar signature; maybe it’s “Regards,” or the more casual, “Cheers.”

Since that message requires a response from you, you continue to play along with what you think is the professional way—typing out the full greeting (again), composing the body of the message, and then concluding with “All the best, [Your Name].” You continue to do this even after multiple back and forths, even though it eventually seems totally pointless and even a little bit awkward.

Unless you work in a super stiff corporate office where even exclamation points are frowned upon, you’ve got to get good with ditching the formal speak, particularly if communicating with your boss or colleagues throughout the workday is a frequent occurrence.

As soon as it feels natural to scrap the “Hello, [Name of Person]” pleasantries and the redundant “Thanks, [Your Name]” goodbyes, do it. And to help you actually feel okay doing this (and not like an etiquette monster), I’ve come up with a few guidelines.


While it can be tempting to formalize all exchanges if it’s what you’re accustomed to or because it’s how you were taught, a lot of the time, it’s just not necessary. Pay attention to your workplace cues, or you’ll just end up sticking out.

If your boss forwards you an email with nothing more than a note about taking a look to see if it’s of interest and you reply with a formal message, I promise you, you’re not winning any brownie points—you’re only clogging up his or her inbox and ignoring how your team handles casual correspondence.

Or, if your colleague’s started communicating with you in a casual way (without addressing you by name or including an official sign-off), accept that as your sign to respond in kind.


It doesn’t matter if your last boss made it clear that adopting an informal tone was intolerable; you’re not working for her anymore. Though a word of caution: Just because you reach a point where you drop the “Best,” with your manager doesn’t mean you should abolish the word from your vocabulary altogether.

If you’re regularly corresponding with someone you’ve never met and your relationship is more formal than not, don’t be so quick to sign off without including a proper closing, especially if you’re on the fence about how to proceed. Erring on the side of caution will always be sound advice.

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