As an American living in the UK, I'm used to inadvertently offending Brits with my use of English. But while faux pas like referring to pants rather than trousers were quickly corrected, it took much longer to realise the subtler shadings of certain words.

One of these is “Regards”, a word I never use in normal speech that has become a fixture in work-related emails. For years I was happily “regards”-ing at the end of my emails, until it came up in conversation that “Regards” sounds cold in the UK. “Kind regards” or “Best regards” is warm and acceptable.

“When I lived in the UK I thought of ‘Kind regards’ as fairly standard and if it got shortened to just ‘Regards’ I would worry if I had offended the sender,” says Leeanne Stoddart, a poet and a volunteer for several organisations in Norway. She was born in the UK but moved away as a child.

Stoddart experienced some culture shock after returning to the UK as a young adult and working in customer service, where it took time to calibrate the right tone and level of formality in the emails she sent. “Something like‘Regards’ could send me into a panic.”

It can be hard to strike exactly the right balance when closing an email. Louise Egan has seen this plenty of times. As the president of Soho Language Group, which helps businesspeople in New York to improve their English, she's encountered non-native speakers who literally translate the email sign-offs from their own languages,without paying attention to context. For instance, “A thousand kisses” – a direct translation of Mille baisers exchanged between friends in French – sounds alarmingly intimate in an English workplace email, she points out.
在电子邮件的末尾做到恰如其分有时很难。路易斯·伊根遇到过无数次这种情况。作为帮助纽约的商界人士提高英语水平的索霍语言学校的总裁,她曾碰到一些非母语人士逐字把他们母语中的电子邮件结束语翻译过来,根本不注意语境。例如“一千个吻”——就是直接把法语中朋友间通信时使用的“Mille baisers”直接翻译过来,她指出这种说法在英语的职场电子邮件中听起来亲密得令人害怕。

The few words at the end of an email can provide insight not just into social status, gender, relationship dynamics and workplace culture, but also the broader culture. In Nigeria, for example, it's common for emails to end on a religious note, such as variants of“Stay blessed”.

Occasionally email closings that draw on Nigerian English can be misinterpreted, to the point of influencing careers. Communication scholar Farooq Kperogi, who blogs frequently about Nigerian English and culture at Notes from Atlanta, gives the example of a Nigerian professor who ended an email to an American professor he hadn't met with “I hope to read from you soon”.

But the American professor had only ever encountered this closing in the advance fee fraud email scams that often, notoriously, originate in Nigeria. She assumed that the Nigerian professor's email was fake and withdrew her offer to introduce him to other people in the field.

Meanwhile, the personalised closing of Kenyan chef Njathi Kabui, “Eat well”, is both professional and political. Kabui says that while “most Kenyans sign work-related emails in the typical colonial way” with British-influenced expressions like “Sincerely” and “All the best”, he's sought to decolonise even his emails.

Whatever you choose, you don't want to leave your email's recipient puzzled. This happened to me the first time I received an email that whimsically ended “TTFN”. Those of you well-versed in Winnie the Pooh or British military-influenced communications would have been able to decode this right away. I, however, was left scratching my head for a while.
不管选择用什么,你都不希望让收件人感到困惑。我第一次收到一封奇怪地以“TTFN”(英语俚语ta-ta for now的缩略语,表示“再见”——译者注)结尾的电子邮件时就曾大惑不解。你们当中特别熟悉《小熊维尼》或者英国受军队影响的交流方式的人可能马上就能破解这个缩写。然而,我可是挠头了好一阵子。(刘晓燕译自英国广播公司网站5月10日文章)