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; “Regards” on its own can sound a little harsh.
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“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.”