I Can Tell You’re in a Bad Mood. Your Email Gives it Away.

Preply.com, an online tutoring company, was curious about how email customs have changed over the years and about how workers felt about it. I’ve written before about the pressure women in business feel to be overly cheerful and expressive in email – the excessive use of exclamation points is not optional for them. It turns out that all employees read moods through email, and they have some strong opinions.

Preply.com surveyed over 1000 U.S. workers to find out what they think about email greetings and signoffs. The majority (76%) say that email greetings are more important than the closing, and they prefer a simple “Hi Candace” to anything else.  I believe that an opening greeting is essential in emails; if you’ve ever received an email that skipped the greeting to get right to the point, you know what I mean. Even if the email is pleasant or neutral, it sounds angry without an opening greeting.

But that’s because almost any communication requires a soft opening; you’d never answer the phone and just start talking. Even in purely business transactions, your instinct is to offer a brief “hi” or “yes” before you request a dog grooming appointment. It’s a simple acknowledgement that the person on the other end of the line matters.

Most workers (80%) sign off emails with “Thank you” or “Thanks”  when they use a close, but almost half (47%) don’t bother with a closing at all. I suspect that’s generational; the workers who grew up texting don’t waste words or keystrokes. Sixteen percent of workers use “Kind Regards” as a closer, which I’ve experienced and marveled at. It’s formal, dignified and seems very 19th-century in its elegance. If anyone has chosen this signoff purposefully, I’d love to have you leave a comment on why and what it means to you.

By the way, your email signals your mood to everyone who reads it. Almost half (46%) of survey respondents said they can tell a coworker’s mood based on their greetings and sign-offs. When it comes to angry emails, the most “savage” greeting/sign-off is actually no greeting or sign-off at all. (See above.) Survey respondents sometimes changed greetings to be uber-casual to express frustration as well (this one came mostly from Gen Z) : “Hiya Candace” is apparently a burn.  Just using the recipients name is apparently also brutal. “Candace: Here’s the information you requested” does sound kind of annoyed, come to think of it. In fact, 43% of workers said this type of call-out is too aggressive to ever use.

The survey says that while unspoken rules of email clearly exist, it seems just as clear that things are changing. Under half, (42%) of people say emojis are never appropriate in work emails, but that means over half (58%) think they are sometimes OK. The same goes for exclamation points, as 48% regularly re-read emails and remove exclamation points, while 25% re-read emails and add them. (I’m guessing they’re almost all women.)

Some unwritten rules generate more agreement. Nearly 2 in 3 (65%) of respondents want people to stop using “Sent from my phone, please excuse typos.” More than half (51%) say to stop using “Sent from iPhone” or similar. We’d be surprised if your email wasn’t sent from your phone, and we’re smart enough to overlook most typos.

But this reminds me that whoever’s in charge of voicemail greeting templates needs to join the 21st century. I can’t believe I’m still hearing instructions on how voicemail works. “Leave a message after the tone. When you have finished, you may hang up…” I think we mastered that skill in about 1985. Just sayin’.

Kind Regards,


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