Yours faithfully or Yours sincerely?

By Maeve Maddox

In 1928 H. W. Fowler listed these phrases and their uses:

Yours faithfully (to unknown person on business)
Yours truly (to slight acquaintance)
Yours very truly (ceremonious but cordial)
Yours sincerely (in invitations and friendly but not intimate letters)

With slight variations between British and American usage, these forms are still in use.

If you don’t know the name of the recipient…

Yours faithfully is British usage. It is used when the recipient is not addressed by name, as in a letter with a “Dear Sir” salutation. I have never seen it in correspondence between Americans. That’s not to say it won’t catch on. I’ve come across letter-writing guides on the web that imply that it is standard American usage.

Yours truly is the American equivalent of “yours faithfully” that I was taught by my American business teachers. When I begin a letter “Dear Sir,” I close it with “Yours truly.”

When you do know the name of the recipient…

Yours sincerely is also British. Americans tend to reverse the order and write Sincerely yours.

When I worked in England, I was told that to write Sincerely without the Yours was very bad form. Now, of course, Sincerely is a common and acceptable close for American business letters.

Which words to capitalize…

Only the first word is capitalized:

Yours faithfully,
Yours sincerely,
Sincerely yours,

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77 Responses to “Yours faithfully or Yours sincerely?”

  • Maeve

    Christina,
    In British usage, if you address the letter as “Dear Participant,” the “yours faithfully” follows because you haven’t addressed the recipient by name. In US usage, “yours sincerely” works both ways. When I was younger, “yours truly” was common as the more detached close, but I don’t see it much anymore.

  • Christina

    How about the one you send the letter to is the participants of your programme? (i.e. Dear Participants), should we use ‘Yours sincerely’ or ‘Yours faithfully’?

  • Thomas

    Sending a complaint via e-mail, and don’t know who would be getting it, so naturally I’ve started with “Dear Sir or Madam”, but as it’s a complaint, I didn’t feel “Yours Faithfully” fit, so after looking through the various comments on this page, I’ve decided to go with “Regards”.

    Yes, although it’s an e-mail, I still treat it as if it was a letter, that said, I believe I use the American form of e-mail letter writing, which is to leave out a comma after “Dear…”, this is because, for some reason, even though where I was taught this (secondary school) is in England, I believe we were being taught the US format of e-mail letter writing; perhaps our UK e-mail letter writing format hadn’t been properly established at this point?

    Similarly, even though I work in the UK, we use the US phonetic alphabet. That said though the first time I used the phonetic alphabet was for a job at the UK branch of a US company, perhaps that’s why. Still, I think some of my later jobs also use the US phonetic alphabet too, just unlike the job I had for the US company, we weren’t given out a sheet with the phonetic alphabet on, we were just expected to know/memorise them.

  • P. A. Gallett

    Until the recent decline of business letters, I would end missives to parties in Spain, well into the ’90s, with a traditional flourish such as “… confiado en verme favorecido con el favor de una pronta respuesta, me quedo de Vmd. su muy seguro servidor, QSSMMB.”

    which is to say “… assured of the pleasure of a quick reply, I remain Your Excellency’s Most Obedient Servant …” The “QSSMMB” is short for quien sus manos besa (who kisses your hands).

    This closing is used to ask politely for a quick reply (in this case) or to make another entreaty. There are many similar examples of elegance and courteous refinement that were required of Spanish correspondence. I’m probably the last redoubt of this epistolary art.

  • P. A. Gallett

    Occasionally I’ve gone “the full nine yards” in closing, with something like:
    “Grateful for the favor of your kind attention, I am pleased to remain
    Your most faithful servant,”

    However, I confess I am somewhat partial to “Your boot-licking lackey,” an impulse which I’ve restrained so far.

    If I start with a salutation such as “Ave!” then I always close with “Vale!” Seems the Latin is so much simpler.

  • venqax

    Funny. I am an American, but don’t use Yours faithfully simply because it is not 1836. What year is it in Britain?

  • Toby

    I was taught studying French, that the proper way to end a formal letter was “Je vous prie d’agréer, monsieur/madame, l’expression de mes sentiments les plus déstingués”, which literally translates to something along like “I beg you to accept, sir/madam, the expression of my most distinguished sentiments”….. A little overboard compared to our “Yours faithfully”, no?

  • Nick from london

    I am 62 now, when I was 18 my headmaster spoke to us on the day we left school; inter alia, he told us that we would need to write to him for references and the like, and to help us he suggested a salutation of “Dear Headmaster” and a closure of “Yours ever” but not as one boy had written “Ever yours”.

    For e-mails I agree with Mark may 16, 2015

  • Andy

    I was tought
    Yours “F”aithully = “F”ormal

  • Mark

    British usage is shifting and in particular is shifting with email.

    Now “Regards”, “Kind regards” are the accepted norms in email correspondence and this is drifting into written correspondence as well.

  • Charles Brodley

    Going back to Toby Lerone’s comment of May 2011. Americans do things perversely because Noah Webster wished it. Webster was 18 when the Revolutionary War started, joined the Militia and published his first spelling book in 1783 before the war ended. Of course he had an intense dislike of all things English. It is said that he wanted to “simplify” English spelling so, according to Webster the English “instalment” should be, for an American child “installment”. On the other hand the English word “travelling” for an American child was to be “traveling”. Generally, wherever the English used a single consonant Webster put in a second and where the English used two consonants he dropped one of them. It wasn’t simplicity he sought, consciously or not, it was rejection.

    Since the “Blue Spelling Book” ran into one hundred editions and taught Americans to spell incorrectly for one hundred years we, and they, are now stuck with it.

  • David Schuessele

    I always finish letters and emails with “Yours Sincerely,” if it’s the first time I’m contacting someone. And “Best Regards,” at all other times other than faimly in which case it is always “Love From,”.

    All this is irrelevant though, as in ten years when we are all enslaved by the aliens we will finish each and every correspondence, for those of us allowed to learn to read and write, “Actually Yours My Alien Overlords,”

    And yes I capitalise every first letter, so what, you want a fight?

  • Danny

    I worked in a company in Australia where it was official policy to end an email with “B/R” for “Best regards.” The abbreviated form is to reduce key strokes.

    B/R

  • GAUTAM

    I feel ‘sincerely’ & ‘faithfully’ were & are still both superb words to use, however, they are just too old fashioned. In today’s business correspondence we should just stick to “Regards” or “Thanks & regards”..I feel that adding words like ‘Warm regards” & “Best regards” classifies the type of regards you wish to send out…why do you need ‘warm & best’? Will you send out cold regards or lousy regards to somebody you don’t like?
    Cheers! is fine but it’s too informal.
    Certainly not “Yours Sincerely” where a capital ‘S’ is used;it is not a Proper noun & need not be written with a capital ‘S’.
    Thank you for your patience.

  • Tessa

    My English teacher said that the sign-off should have bothe words beginning with capital letters, i.e. ‘Yours Sincerely’. Is this correct? How is this different from ‘Yours sincerely’?

  • Belfast Architects A.L.D.A.

    How to remember which to use? Simple; never use sincerely with Sir. (Dear Sir)

    If you are writing a letter to someone you don’t know you are writing to them and extending faith that they will be helpful and reply. That is when you use faithfully.

  • F.Moss

    Dear All,
    This is such a strange debate. It is not just about convention it is about real meaning as opposed to perceived meaning.

    If your relations are more distant it seems logical and conventionally correct to imply that one should use a degree of faith in the relationship. That is what the writer is expecting. He is not conferring faith.

    Likewise, when the relations are closer one can expect sincerity to the be the substance of the bond between writer and reader because the contents of the communication are written (hopefully) with truth, honesty and humility. If any of these aspects are missing from your writing try writing again.

    Writing “yours” means you are in a relationship with the other person. It does not mean you are committed to a bond of love, parenthood or other stronger link. It simply offers an open hand (like a hand shake).

    IF WE ALL TRY TO BE ORIGINAL/CLEVER ALL THE TIME, NO ONE WILL BE ORIGINAL OR CLEVER ANY MORE. Conventions help us to speak in code so that when you write that extraordinary text for a loved one or in a moment of extreme need, it stands out.

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