It is necessary to write the best regards

Greetings for letters with unpleasant content

Edition: The Language Service 3/2013

[F] As an employee of my company, I have to respond to a letter that is improperly and impolite. In this context, I feel it is inappropriate to use the greeting "best regards". I also do not want to write "Respectfully" because I do not want to express my respect for the addressee. What are my options?

[A] The greeting in letters is formally regulated in DIN standard 5008; there it says that it is set off with a blank line to accompany the letter text. The standard formula in business correspondence is "Sincerely". In addition, the formulations “Kind regards”, “With binding greetings” and “Kind regards” are also common, whereby the apparently more casual “Kind regards” is not only rated as neutral. The career expert Jochen Mai wrote, for example, in the “Abendzeitung” (February 1, 2009): “If something is left out in a common formula, this can signal to the recipient:“ You are not even worth three words to me - enough for you too two. ”- With“ Respectfully ”you can express anger, irony or rejection, for example; this greeting seems more distant in any case. In the past, it was used as an alternative in exceptional cases when the writer felt that a friendly greeting was not appropriate. Today "Yours sincerely" is still used in letters to high officials (cf. the "Guide for Addresses and Salutations", published by the Federal Ministry of the Interior, available at, but is otherwise rarely used , since many perceive the phrase to be outdated and conservative (see "Duden, writing letters - made easy". 2nd edition, Mannheim 2008, p. 39, Duden, "Writing letters well and correctly!", 4th ed. Ed., Mannheim 2006, p. 47). The use of "Sincerely" is therefore not recommended.

According to DIN 5008, it is possible to modify the greeting. Correspondingly, letters with unpleasant content contain formulas such as "Greetings ...", "In the hope of a clarifying / quick / positive answer", "In expectation of clarification" or "With a request for an early answer / processing". Occasionally a phrase such as "With best regards" is used; Occasionally the writer does not use the greeting and only places his signature under the last sentence. However, these two variants do not seem advisable to me. However, the case of "greetings for letters with unpleasant content" is just as little dealt with in DIN 5008 as the case in which the writer wants to express his annoyance in accordance with the content of his letter in the salutation. A look at sample letter collections shows that in business correspondence, even in the case of reminders, terminations, complaints and other rather unpleasant content, the form is generally maintained and that a lack of respect for the addressee does not affect the address or the greeting. "Dear ..." and "Sincerely," are used even when the writer might personally think the opposite. On the one hand, this is an expression of professionalism. On the other hand, "Kind regards" is generally understood as a neutral, impersonal and meaningless phrase that does not express one's own judgment. So you are not going wrong using this formula in your letter.

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