Jul 142009
 

Sometimes a question that seems simple on the surface hides many other issues going on beneath the surface.  Here is another question that we have received from a reader:

Dear Help Desk,

Does a closing of an e-mail to a friend with “All the best” always mean a farewell?

With kind regards,

(name withheld)

We responded:

(name withheld),

Thank you for your question.

It is becoming a common way of ending an email between friends, and even people who do not know each other. Where it is not appropriate to end with “love”, “All the best” is appropriate because it is a congenial salutation.

Have you received this ending lately? If so, on what type of email?

The ESL Help! Desk

Next, we received the following question in return:

Dear Help Desk,

Thank you very much for the prompt response. The matter is that I have a friend. We had been known each other personally (not intimately) for half-a-year before becoming distant correspondents during the next six months. However I cannot assume we both know much about each oher. I recently sent an email with “All the best” ending and have not received a timely reply. I was just thinking if this could be concidered by him as my will to end our virtual relationship.

My kind regards,

(name withheld)

To which we responded:

(name withheld),

Hmmm…I don’t think that the time lag between your hearing from this pen pal and the present time can be attributed to your ending an email with “all the best”. However, how long has it generally been between emails?
Could your pen pal be on a vacation or traveling due to work? Or perhaps there has been, God forbid, a family tragedy? Sometimes people’s email goes down, as well.

If your relationship had been intimate, then I would say that “All the best” is not appropriate; it will establish distance. However, as you describe it, such was not the case. Could it be that this pen pal did desire a more intimate relationship? Of course you would want to be careful about that in any case, given the problem of these internet relationships.

Before you switched to “All the best”, how did you and he typically end your emails? I would suggest that you either 1) wait and see if and when you receive a response; or 2) send another short note and just say that you are  hoping everything is well with him, and sign it, “Your friend, (name withheld).”

But if you are going to use choice “b”, then wait a bit, as some people are weary of others being “pushy”.

Wishing you all the best!

the ESL Help! Desk

  34 Responses to “When to use “All the best” in the closing of a letter”

  1. Do you say All the Best ‘to’ or ‘for’ you?
    Thank you.

  2. Marayat,

    First of all, you just need to write “All the best”. However, if you were to complete the sentence, it would be “All the best to you.”

    Thank you for your question.

    Jane

  3. Which closings are correct?

    1) All the best,
    2) All the Best,

    1) Take care,
    2) Take Care,

    1) Best regards,
    2) Best Regards,

  4. Luis,

    Good question, and I like the fact that you’ve worked through some options.

    In each case, you would only want to capitalize the first word of the sentence. Thus, each option 1) would be the correct choice.

    Regarding which of the three groups is correct, that depends on the situation. Ending 1 is common and expresses good will. Ending 2 expresses good will but it is slightly more colloquial. Option 3 is preferable for formal writing, resumes, business, etc. I often end my personal emails with “All the best”.

    Thank you for your questions.

  5. Wow, great questions and great answers! I use those final three closings in pretty much the same way described. And, “All the best,” won’t have anything to do with a farewell or attempt to distance oneself. It’s a good general-purpose closing that works in many situations.

  6. Thank you, Eugene, for your input.

    We hope to hear from you again!

    Jane

  7. I have a similiar situation as the original asker…I like one guy, we were never close enough to know each other, but he respond my e-mails and I don’t assume he’d reciprocate my feeling.
    Everytime I sign with “All the best”, he ‘d reply with “Talk Soon”, which leave me all puzzled , think it is used as abrush off.

  8. Dear SW,

    “Talk soon” is certainly one form of a brush-off, if you were expecting something more, since he wasn’t willing to pin it down and add some reality to it, such as “Let’s talk tomorrow night” or “I’ll call you tomorrow afternoon”. At the same time, signing off “All the best” is also somewhat formal and also keeps some distance between you. If you were more overt about a desire to get emotionally closer, you would use “Yours affectionately”, etc, but that of course is taking quite a bit of risk in exposing your feelings for this other person and you might have have been playing it safe by perceiving that your feelings weren’t going to be reciprocated.

    Sorry for the late reply.

    Jane

  9. Hello,

    So “All the best” doesn’t need to be fully capitalized when signing off such as: “All the Best”?

    Thanks!

    Michael

  10. No, but I’m interested to know why you think it would. We generally capitalize all the words if it’s a proper noun, a name of a book, etc.

    But you also raise an interesting question: How to punctuate it.

    Typically, we use a comma after salutations. A common salutation is “Yours” which would be written:

    Yours,

    So “All the best” would be written thus:

    Thanks for your question.

    All the best,

    Jane

  11. Hi

    I wanted to register in your website, but unfortunately found out that there isn`t such a this thing!…
    anyway I`m ganna to translate an English novel to my language. do you help me to find out a few sentences?!

    Best
    Melika

  12. I keep getting emails from acquaintances and colleagues that end

    “All best”

    rather than

    “All the best”

    Is this a new trend?

  13. Rachel,

    I don’t know; you may have picked up on a new trend. I’ve not seen it. The tendency with email and “txting” surely is for things to keep getting shorter and shorter and I suspect that this is due to that. It’s not grammatically correct, though, and would be very poorly received in formal and even semi-formal correspondence.

    Funny, but I was going to write “Hope that helps” and this is a good example of things being abbreviated, because it’s actually “I hope that helps.”

    Jane

  14. Melika,

    We do not require registration any more. You can utilize it just like you have.

    Good luck with your translation!

    But first, you should not write “I’m ganna.” The correct English is “I’m going to….” Please see this lesson.

    Jane

  15. Rachel,

    You are not the only one picking up on this one, I gather.

    Recently I’ve caught myself typing ‘All best’ with no ‘the’ in between at the drop of a hat, not accordingly as some of my texbooks show, added perhaps to a specific e-mail of a rather official nature I’d once received and am still keeping.

    Then,if my memory doesn’t fail me, another similar e-mail had arrived & this time with no ‘the’ included,which NOW takes me unawares.

    By rights, when in doubt it’s normally safer to use what’s more common in the public domain, but I’ll
    go on with my research for sure.

  16. Just a quick note, – I’m reading the ‘American Tabloid’ by James Ellroy, a novel which is set in early 60’s, and the ‘All best’ variant seems like quite common closing in a business correspondence between the characters.

  17. Thanks, George, for this comment and observation. I have not traced the history of this expression but you have helped in this regard.

    I do have to wonder if it’s a translation from another language, as the evolution of language goes; for example, in Hebrew, the expression “kol tov” means “all good”, and it is a common salutation.

  18. Someone I work with ALWAYS signs condolence/sympathy cards for co-workers (at a time of loss)

    All the Best – (Name)

    Am I wrong in finding that to be extremely inappropriate? Borderline creepy? If nothing else it seems to be very insincere.

    Thoughts?

  19. It was nice that the person took the time to purchase and send a card, but it doesn’t ring of empathy, for sure. Some people have trouble with the pain of death.

  20. I love this post. I think this would be an interesting topic for the “Lexicon Valley” podcast. If you haven’t heard of it, I think it’s very worthwhile to Google it.

  21. I just received an email yesterday with the closing: “All best,”. What? Why? It really annoyed me, so much so that I had to look it up, which led me here. Good to know that others are coming across this and that it is, in fact, grammatically incorrect.

    Thank you!

  22. Kelly,
    It’s definitely grammatically incorrect. So many expressions are being shortened these days that a person not totally proficient in English might not know which shortcuts are acceptable and which are not. For example, “I wish you all the best” is shortened to “All the best” but “All best” is completely not acceptable. But you caught it; good for you.
    Thanks for your comment.
    Jane

  23. Seth,
    We have so many responses to this blog. The expression has become ubiquitous and of course people, writers, need to know when it’s appropriate to use, and what the writer is saying by virtue of this closing. One telling one, see comments below, was when a person was romantically interested in another and received a written reply “All the best.” That was a sure sign the other was not romantically interested.
    Jane

  24. “all best” was my english teacher used when she sent me an email. I am confused! she has used this all of the time!!!

  25. Veronica,

    Sorry for my late reply. I see this ending more and more often. I see it in business correspondence, particularly email. It’s a way of being formal but close – not too close. I usually use “Yours” (as you can see below) but that’s becoming less and less frequently used.

    Thank you for taking the time to share your comment with us.

    Yours,

    Jane

  26. I have to say people should KNOW this:
    When someone ends a meeting or letter with “All the Best” it is very formal, final distant and even cold. It is NOT a friendly warm phrase to use with friends you plan to keep correspondence with.
    It USUALLY means that the two of you are parting ways in life and will probably NOT see each other again or communicate. If one person says to another, they may be ENDING the friendship! you
    If you end a letter to an American this way, they may take it that you wish to end the acquaintance or friendship! That is why you might not have received a reply to your letter.

    I’m really surprised no one else really pointed this out. Do NOT use this phrase on a friend. EVER.

  27. Kim,

    You have interesting points.

    First, you said “When someone ends a meeting or letter with “All the Best” it is very formal, final distant and even cold. It is NOT a friendly warm phrase to use with friends you plan to keep correspondence with.” (1)

    I’ve recently written a work resignation email which I appended as a letter to the email as well (to give a more formal character to it or for their filling purposes). Since I continue to work with the same (small) company as an independent contractor and will not personally be in contact with coworkers and management on a daily basis but will keep exchanging business emails with some, by closing my letter with “All the best for you all” I meant I wish to you all the best. I wonder why my closing would convey such an “unfriendly” feeling. Yes, I suppose you´re right in some contexts but not all. Or, by saying that “If you end a letter to an American this way, they may take it that you wish to end the acquaintance or friendship!” (2), did you only have in mind only SW life situation (context) and the like?

    Also, by saying “I’m really surprised no one else really pointed this out. Do NOT use this phrase on a friend. EVER.” (3), are you implying that this a common knowledge among English-speaking people or in America and that this is the case in any and all contexts? Clarify please with some material evidence.

    Although “best wishes to you” or “yours” or even “best wishes for you” and the like are more ubiquitous expressions, it seems to me that “all the best” is just good as well. Am I that wrong? Would you say that “Best wishes for you all” would be more or less appropriate?

    Betsie

  28. Betsie and Kim,
    There are all levels of closeness, all levels of intimacy, all degrees of friendship. “All the best” can convey distance but it’s not necessarily a relationship-ender! We have close friends who have us to their home and always say, when we leave, “All the best.” In the context of an ongoing relationship with people who have only kind words to say, it means, like you said, Betsie, WE WISH YOU ALL THE BEST and it is sincere. Acquaintances of mine who I see frequently but whom I’m not “close close” with end their emails with:

    Best,

    (their name)”.

    For somebody you are very very close with, it’s not a proper ending. But if you have any type of intermittent communication, it’s perfectly fine and definitely not a put-off. It’s perfectly appropriate in the situation you, Betsie, present.

    That said, it can be a put-off when you desire romantic intimacy and the other writes “All the best.” This is not a good sign. If you’re the one reading or hearing it, you can either take a hint, or ask “What do you mean by that? Are you trying to keep a distance between us?”

    Jane

  29. This is a great discussion, exactly what I was looking for when I googled the phrase, however, after reading through all the responses I’m starting to think one should never end any email with any kind of salutation. Reading so much into three fairly insignificant words at the end of an email worries me greatly. How is one to know exactly how any combination of words will be taken, even a single word. Do we all realize we’re discussing misinterpreting American colloquialisms used by Americans to other Americans? We can’t even figure it out ourselves. What a mine field, especially for foreigners. I feel bad for the original poster if they did unintentionally end a relationship in three words.

    Bryan

  30. Dear,
    I found this to be a very interesting subject and I would like to express my opinion. First of all it should be recognized that most of advice here comes from Americans. This means that most of the tips here are completely useless since it is well known that US English is completely rubbish within a somewhat international context. If one is to send an email within the US then you can use whatever closing sentence as you want. However, if you want to be proper than the US people I would recommend to use standard Oxbridge English and then “All the best” would be excellent, it is however slightly better than “All best” which, also would work just fine, but it is slightly more sloppy.

    /Arnebanane

  31. Bryan,

    Yep, I couldn’t agree with you more. But I don’t think that the relationship was that solid if, in using those three words, the relationship ended.

    I learned to begin letters with “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern” and I haven’t seen that in centuries! People begin formal letters these days with first names, i.e. “Dear Mary,” when in my day it was always “Dear Ms. Rocker” and so on. I learned to end letters with “Yours truly” and “Sincerely” and I haven’t seen “Sincerely” in decades! Maybe because people aren’t sincere any more? Whatever, there is formal letter writing and there is letter writing. I would never end or suggest ending a letter for employment with anything like “All the best.” The standard and formal “Yours truly” still holds up.

    Maybe that we have so many methods of writing now, it’s not just letters. There’s paper letters, email letters, text messages, so on and so forth, and the degree of formality has changed with each new technology.

    That said, thanks for writing. I have a problem because my WP doesn’t notify me of new comments. I’m very sorry for the delay.

    Yours,

    Jane

  32. Arnebane,
    The only people using “All best” do not know English, period.
    My blog represents American English, and people who use British English are welcome to contribute! I should talk to my son-in-law about this, since he’s British and has lived and work in both countries.
    If you’re British, please feel free to contribute what you see is appropriate there.
    Thanks.

  33. I thought I would chime in here regarding “All best” and knowing English.

    I’m an undergraduate studying English at an American university with well-regarded faculty, and I regularly correspond via e-mail with my professors. I just searched my inbox, and no less than three of them regularly use “All best” as an e-mail sign off.

    Make of that what you will.

  34. Alex,
    Thanks for your input and contribution to this topic. That’s interesting. Grammatically, the long version is “I am wishing you all the best” where “best”‘is used as a noncount noun. This would be as in “She was wearing her best,” where “best” is a noun derived from the adjective “her best clothes.” What can insanities then people are getting increasingly lazy with writing, IN PARTICULAR writing emails. And again I don’t know the linguistic background of these people. But correct English it is not. Acceptable? That’s a risk somebody can take but I would not recommend it.

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