We’ve already shared an article about the best and worst email sign-offs, but today we’d like to focus on one special word. Since 1775, this valediction has been a popular choice for letter writers, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. Nowadays, the fond farewell appears in letters, emails, and on greeting cards. Of course, we’re discussing “regards,”—whether they’re warm, best, or kind.
Before becoming a sign-off, the word entered the English lexicon in the mid-fourteenth century from the Old French regarder. In French, the word meant, “to look at.” It evolved to mean respect, esteem, favor, or kindly feeling in English by the late fourteenth century. The plural came to mean something like “kindly feelings.”
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an aspect, point, or particular: quite satisfactory in this regard.
thought; attention; concern.
respect, esteem, or deference: a high regard for scholarship.
kindly feeling; liking.
regards, sentiments of esteem or affection: Give them my regards.
The last definition fits most closely with the way people use the word at the end of a letter or an email.
Variations and Their Meanings
“Warm regards,” “warmest regards,” or “with warm regards” all give a personal touch to correspondence. This phrase would be especially appropriate for a holiday greeting or a note to close friends. If you’re going to use this greeting in a professional email, ask yourself whether warmth or tenderness would be appropriate, given the content of your message.
“Best regards” and “with best regards” both indicate that you wish the recipient well. These phrases can be a good substitute for other neutral and friendly sign-offs, such as “best wishes,” or “all the best.”
“Kind regards,” “kindest regards,” or “with kind regards” all sound slightly more formal, while extending warm wishes to your recipient. Because the phrase seems a bit old-fashioned, you might compare it to phrases like “cordially,” “sincerely yours,” or “yours truly.” All of these, although intended convey good wishes, may sound outdated. As a result, your message could come across to the reader as more formal than you intend.
“Regards” or “with regards” can be an excellent way to close a business letter or email. Since this sign-off is so short, it allows you to conclude a message as neutrally as possible. Also, if your message contains bad news, keeping your valediction simple can be a great way to avoid sounding insincere or inappropriate. Sometimes a cool and neutral sign-off works well, especially when the content of your email is all business.
Can You Invent Your Own Regards?
Since regards are “sentiments of esteem or affection,” you may wonder if it’s appropriate to choose some novel adjectives. Jolly regards? Affectionate regards? Maybe some tender regards…?
While grammatically correct, these unusual conclusions have the potential to distract readers in a business context. Therefore, we recommend using discretion. If you’re a dramatic opera singer by profession, it could be appropriate to conclude your business correspondence with a colorful phrase, like “rip-roaring regards.” On the other hand, if you’re a lawyer or an accountant, your clients probably expect a more formal farewell. By choosing the correct sign-off for the occasion, you signal to your reader that you understand how to be appropriate and professional.
I’m an award-winning playwright with a penchant for wordplay. After earning a perfect score on the Writing SAT, I worked my way through Brown University by moonlighting as a Kaplan Test Prep tutor. I received a BA with honors in Literary Arts (Playwriting)—which gave me the opportunity to study under Pulitzer Prize-winner Paula Vogel. In my previous roles as new media producer with Rosetta Stone, director of marketing for global ventures with The Juilliard School, and vice president of digital strategy with Up & Coming Media, I helped develop the voice for international brands. From my home office in Maui, Hawaii, I currently work on freelance and ghostwriting projects.