XOXO: What your email sign-off says about you

How do you sign your business emails? Some keep it simple: name and contact info. That's short and sweet enough. And then there are the more expressive types who include favorite URLs, famous quotes, and emoticons. How you conclude your email can affect how you're perceived. Hover over the image above to see what your sign-off says about you.

Not surprisingly, women are more likely to employ quotes or affectionate words in their sign-off. More and more women are signing their emails, even at the office, with hugs and kisses, or "XO." Writers Rachel Simmons and Jessica Bennett say this speaks volumes about how much women's roles in the workplace have changed, and they've written an article about it in this month's issue of The Atlantic.

Simmons and Bennett write: "In Diane Sawyer’s newsroom, staffers say, the anchor uses XO so frequently that its omission can spark panic."

Simmons sums up the kind of emotional status update underlying those X's and O's.

"I think it's very much a sign of things are OK between us. I think when you get habituated to XO -- and particularly if you're attentive to relationships, which I think a lot of women are -- when you notice suddenly there is no X, no O, wait a minute, is there a secret message embedded in that omission?"

Not a secret message of ardent love turned cold, exactly.

"Getting it doesn't actually mean that I want to kiss or hug somebody, it's just made its way into email communication more and more and more as we're unable to kind of signify tone in a lot of ways in our writing," says Bennett. "Now I work as an editor and it is amazing the number of strangers who will pitch me story ideas and sign with an XO in a professional setting."

Bennett says many people agonize over their signatures because they want to look casual and fun, but not appear too stiff or serious.

"We have so little time these days to type much of anything and so XO also just becomes this very quick abbreviation that says everything is OK or I still care about you, or whatever it is, that we don't have time to actually write down in words in our crazy kind of lives," says Simmons.

Simmons says that in the workplace, some women feel like they have to apologize for being direct or too authoritative. The XO cuts the edge off the abruptness that many women in the workplace have learned to curtail.

"As much as I in my life might be working with young women to educate them to be assertive, there's no question that assertiveness gets you punished often, and so women have had to adapt to that. XO is a very ingenious adaptation to that pressure not to be too bossy, too assertive. I've also noticed exclamation points being a cheerful top-off to asking someone to do something," says Simmons.

The XO phenomenon is also a nod to the importance of networking, she adds.

When thinking about your email sign-off, Simmons says the goal is to find something that indicates your feelings about the person, that speaks to the person without appearing disingenuous or overdoing it.

"Signatures are a kind of language we need to learn," she says.

What's your preferred sign-off? Tell us in the comments.

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About the author

In more than 20 years in public radio, Barbara Bogaev has served as the longtime guest host of NPR’s flagship program Fresh Air with Terry Gross, as well as host of APM’s news and culture magazine, Weekend America and the weekly national documentary series, Soundprint.
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I cannot be the only person that noticed the distinct lack of any male input on this piece. How stereotypical can you be by having 3 women sitting around talking about how emotional you can be in an email. Seriously, give me a break.

One of the key questions is how male colleagues would look at these different levels of informal salutations, and how it would color their view of you professionally. Do you think men would ever consider using this level emotion in their email signatures? What does this convey to the other half of the work force.

As a professional, I would think very carefully about what my fake handwritten or comic sans pink email signature says about me to my boss and everyone else on an outgoing email, not all of whom necessarily know me that well.

Frankly I have to say, "it's email people!!!"
What's the fuss over salutations or sign off?
Convey the message and wait for the response.
Most of the time I'm simply happy to get a reply.

don't dot dot dot, finish the thought.

Way to advocate for invitations for sexual harassment in the work place with XO at then end of your e-mails. That doesn't belong in a professional setting.

I agree with many of the comments below, I always sign off with thanks or thank you unless I'm emailing someone I never emailed before then it is Sincerely followed by my contact info. If it is a long running chain there is no need to continually drop your contact info. If its family or friends then it is "love," or "cant wait to see you"

I've never seen and anyone sign off with XO, it just seems unprofessional. On a side note using the ellipses "..." comes across as sounding trite, insincere, sarcastic, or passive-agressive. Maybe I'm taking it the wrong way. Let me know.

for me, the sign off depends on the medium and the country...I lead a team of South American engineers. My email sign-offs are just one letter "R". I see an email as a post-it that some has left on my desk. If I am ending a Skype session, I end with a jovial "Abrazo" which means hug. I guess the difference has to do with the sense of real time. For my US colleague, it is always an R

I'm a big fan of "Fondly," - it's sweet and friendly but still professional. "XO" is reserved only for people who I would actually like to embrace. Not much business correspondance qualifies.

I abandoned using salutories or au revoirs in correspondence since my Air Force days, where it was all formulaic and often redundant.

Nowadays, I start emails by getting directly to the point and end them without any flourish or even a signature. Hey, they know who it's from in the Subject header, right?

Perhaps some chalk my relative brevity up to my curmudgeonly personality but, in truth, I think most appreciate terse relevance to wordy vacuousness.

I'm most curious what your team would say about my standard email sign-off. Unless a more formal closing is required I default to "Swimmingly,"

I believe that email signatures should be short and concise. Thanks! or Talk to you soon! and name should suffice.

I get "signatures" that are added to EACH response (at work) that are up to 1/3 to 1/2 page of a sheet of paper! I try to cut out the extra if I respond in case it needs to be printed. The repeated use of confidential disclosure in addition to your name and contact information is redundant and irritating. Do you think that even with a confidentiality disclosure that something might not be spread if it's accidently sent to the wrong hands?


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