By ERICH SCHWARTZEL, Pitt. Post-Gazette - Dawn-Michelle Baude is a poet and an e-mail expert -- and she's not sure which one requires better attention to words.
Robert Frost wisely closes his account of "The Road Not Taken" by saying it "made all the difference," and the ending of an e-mail can make all the difference as well, says Baude.
"The sign-off is, in fact, where the emotional tenor of the message is registered," said Baude, "as neutral, friendly, respectful, endearing, chilly."
And choices for each emotion abound.
Is "Best" the best bet? Will "Sincerely" make you sound old? Does anyone read "Cheers!" and not wince a little bit?
After reading through "thousands" of e-mails as research for her book, "The Executive's Guide to E-mail Correspondence," Baude noticed that an individual sign-off has become part of a writer's online persona, a piece of digital flair.
That's not necessarily a good thing. "Just slapping down the same sign-off for everyone emphasizes the impersonal," she said.
In any message, context is king, and several factors can affect a sign-off's appropriateness.
The first question: What country is the recipient from?
"Cheers" originated in Europe and remains popular there despite American colonization of the sign-off, said Baude.
But there's another closing that stretches across all continents and is a safe choice when writing to strangers: "Regards."
"I've seen 'Regards' come out of every country in the world," she said.
The next factor: age and experience.
Older e-mailers tend to expect a more formal sign-off, said Baude. Younger workers writing to the boss often overcompensate for their inexperience by including a sign-off, while older executives don't feel as obligated to include any closing.
So omitting a sign-off might be a quick way to look important -- or rude.
When she first pitched her book, some agents said an e-mail guide wasn't necessary since the form simply followed the same rules as written correspondence. But e-mail writing is nothing less than "the evolution of the English language as a medium," she said.
As for herself, Baude has three favorites: "Keep me posted," "See you soon" and "Good luck."
What's your preferred e-mail signature? Add it in the comments below.