It’s not a good look, but it happens: for busy, highly caffeinated workers in a deadline-driven world, it’s perilously easy to send an email that reads as callous and unfeeling.
Your humble blogger included, we’ve all been guilty at times, hurriedly mashing “send” and moving on without acknowledging whatever favor or question we’ve imposed upon a trusted colleague or potentially valuable contact. Oops.
In your heart, you know kindness is not a waste of time—least of all when what’s required is just a few extra words in an email. The trouble is, which words? You want to say thanks, but not seem strained or sycophantic in your expression of gratitude. You also want to keep your dispatches straightforward and to the point, so there’s no room for thank-yous that are overlong or unwieldy.
Get in, say thanks, and get out.
Depending on the degree of formality in the email you’re drafting—old-timey letter-writing structure tends to diminish over a series of back-and-forth replies—there might be a few good places to pop in a thanks while wrapping up.
1 You can show your appreciation as part of a closing line.
The closing line tends to encapsulate a key takeaway from your message, as in this example:
I’ll work these puns you suggested into my presentation on otters, and thanks again for your kelp.
2 Alternatively, show your gratitude in your sign-off.
Your sign-off comes just before your name, and should probably not consist solely of “Thx.” Here’s an example:
If you’re able, we otter collaborate on another project like this soon.
Some appreciations are multifaceted and can work well in either case, while others might just feel too clunky or intense for daily use—looking at you, gratefully.
The words you want might just be ‘thank’ and ‘you.’
Let’s go through a few options, starting with the tried and true:
3 Thank you
It’s hard to imagine a scenario where you tell someone “thank you,” only to later wish you hadn’t. With two timeless words, the message you send is “I am an alive person aware that I am communicating with another alive person who probably had things to do before this email arrived.” It matters.
4 Thank you!
This one works, with the caveat that exclamations can sometimes be off-putting in professional correspondence with people you don’t know well. Use it sparingly.
It’s not terrible when used in the right context, but winnowing “thank you” down to one casual syllable has the potential to feel terse or perfunctory, so be mindful.
If this is how you sign off every email you send, your contacts will tire of it. Save it for occasions when you know it’s all right to be nonchalant.
7 Thanks again
Here’s a trusty option if your email began with a thank you. It can even work as a sign-off with a comma at the end, particularly if you’re including a closing line to this effect:
I appreciate all your help ferreting out such an extensive list of species related to otters.
8 Thanks in advance
Use this one cautiously or not at all; it assumes the recipient will do something, but the last thing you want is a thank-you that backfires and makes them feel taken for granted.
9 Thanks for your consideration
This seems to suggest what you could be thankful for is limited, which is not exactly a collegial vibe. If you’re thinking about putting it at the end of a cover letter, don’t—it’s as if you’re preemptively bracing for the news that you didn’t get the job.
10 Many thanks
Elegant in its simplicity, you don’t see this one every day. It suggests “I put some thought into this at some point.” It’s an especially good option as a sign-off, like so:
These awful puns have given me paws. Just kidding—we can brainstorm more at our meeting on Monday.
Another handy standby for signing off. You have to work at it to find a context where this one doesn’t feel appropriate.
Sometimes the message you want to send is ‘I see you.’
While it’s generally a good idea to keep your emails brief out of respect for the recipient’s time, you’ll occasionally find “thank you” alone just doesn’t feel sufficient. In these circumstances, it’s good to be specific and show your recognition.
Thanks so much for your tenacity in staying late to prepare the slides on how sea otters forage. We made our deadline by a whisker!
Also, remember that words in an email aren’t your only means of showing appreciation. If your intern has shown a lot of hustle in hauling an important project across the finish line, give them props at the next staff meeting. Send someone flowers or a gift card once in a while.
Making sure the folks you correspond with feel valued is essential to maintaining a warm relationship, both as professionals and fellow humans. Thanks kindly for reading this far.