Yours faithfully or Yours sincerely?

By Maeve Maddox - 1 minute read

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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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83 Responses to “Yours faithfully or Yours sincerely?”

  • Zach

    I use Best–is there anything wrong with that style?

  • Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach

    Speaking about closing letters, I *hate* the closure:

    “Warmly, dot dot dot”

    It always makes me think, well Jeepers, how else will they say it?

    “Frigidly, dot dot dot”
    “I’m really stressed by you but I’ll lie about it and say Warmly, dot dot dot”
    etc.etc.etc.

    That being said, I do use “Sincerely” when being formal, and “Best wishes” every other time.

  • Al Galbraith

    I use “Sincerely” to conclude almost all correspondence. Once in awhile I might say “Most sincerely,” but never “Yours [whatever]” for the simple reason that I am not “yours.” You could attribute that to the streak of American egalitarianism in me, or possibly my being a lawyer who sometimes writes to adversaries, but I am my wife’s, or my children’s, but never “yours.”

  • Dee M.

    I’m a 40 year old American, and I was taught:

    For business or formal letters-
    “Sincerely,” or “Yours truly,”

    For personal letters-
    “Love,” or “Warm regards,” or “Sincerely yours”

  • Deborah

    Barbara, you made me laugh!
    I use “Best wishes,” but oh, how I long to write, “I remain, your most faithful and humble servant.” (sigh)

  • Cesar

    Hi. I’m new to your site, but I love it already!

    I’ve always thought that “Yours truly”, “Sincerely yours” etc. sound extremely frivolous, forced, and, frankly, ridiculous!

    Why? Well, because “I’m yours” is something that we say only to people we’re MADLY IN LOVE WITH in real life!

    But alas, the usage in English is overwhelmingly accepted. Who am I to say it sounds too mushy and cutesy for my taste?

    Sincerely yours (please refer to my first sentence 😀 ), Cesar!

  • Al G.

    Dee, you caught me in a mental lapse, which may show how infrequently I write actual letters to my family. “Love” is the perfect closing for correspondence to my wife and children. I use “love” all the time in closing [shudder] e-mails to them and a few close cousins.

  • PreciseEdit

    What would Fowler have made of “Yours very truly and sincerely”?

    To me, this shows the arbitrary creation of some “rules” for writing, especially those that seem to have neither grammatical considerations nor agreement between the meaning of the words and the purpose for which they are used.

    “I don’t know you. We’ve never met. This is an unsolicited letter trying to get your business. You will probably throw it in the trash. I don’t expect to hear back from you. In spite of this, truly, I am yours.”

    I said this in another response somewhere, but the idea of telling someone I am his or hers, when I have never met that person, feels awkward to me.

    My pick is still for “Sincerely.” I wouldn’t recommend that a client change the closing line he or she has selected, but I will continue to use “Sincerely” for my own professional correspondences.

  • Renee

    I use “Best regards” for email letters and “Sincerely” for cold call business-type letters. I’m with Al G. on letters to family and friends, you show your emotions, “Love” or “Love ya mucho.”

  • J Miles P

    I use “Dear Jane” to someone I know and end with “Yours sincerely”, whether she is dear to me or not, to indicate that she may rely on the emotions I express.

    I use “Dear Sir” to someone i do not know and end with “Yours faithfully”, where my faithfulness is to indicate that my words may be relied upon.

    With emails, I end with “Regards”, as i want something that i can use every time to anyone as a mark of consistency and to avoid giving offence by reverting to “regards” having used used “warm regards” or similar on a proor occasion.

  • J Miles P

    I use “Dear Jane” to someone I know and end with “Yours sincerely”, whether she is dear to me or not, to indicate that she may rely on the emotions I express.

    I use “Dear Sir” to someone I do not know and end with “Yours faithfully”, where my faithfulness is to indicate that my words may be relied upon.

    With emails, I end with “Regards”, as I want something that I can use every time to anyone as a mark of consistency and to avoid giving offence by reverting to “regards” having used used “warm regards” or similar on a prior occasion.

  • ty

    what about “I’m your most sincerely” ?

  • gabriel

    i appreciate the good work done to set the standard in the english language. most a times we interchange the american version with the british version. i strongly believe u have given more insight on the use of the english language.

  • Dambo chichio

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    9 plus 18 is always 20. hoop u learned something of it.

  • Tess

    I had a truly frightening experience yesterday. I sent a business letter to a new client whom I have never met and likely never will. We also had never corresponded previously. I signed this letter, ‘Yours faithfully’. He complained to two of my bosses that it was religious in some way, and inappropriate. One of said bosses then wrote me to admonish me saying though he found it ‘endearing’ that I should be professional when signing off, ‘Yours sincerely’, ‘Kind Regards’, ‘Many Thanks’. WHEN DID THESE THINGS BECOME MORE FORMAL THAN YOURS FAITHFULLY??! Clearly the ignorant business exec in question has never seen the phrase ‘in good faith’ or he would know that yours faithfully derived from this phrase meaning, of course, that the sender of the letter or contract would not try to cheat the receiver in business terms and so on. And the more frightening thing is that neither of my bosses stood up for me, because neither of them had ever, according to them, seen the sign off ‘yours faithfully’ before. These people all have masters in business administration. Can anyone help me vent??? WHAT is going on here!???

  • Al G.

    Tess, I’d regard “yours faithfully” as being closely akin to “yours truly.” I’m guessing that it derives from “your faithful and obedient servant,” the latter being in vogue in the 1700’s and used by people who were nobody’s servants. Your client and your boss come across as rather illiterate oafs.

    Having said all that, I’d consider using the plain-vanilla “sincerely,” which can be used even if you are not totally sincere.

  • Tess

    Yes, I also thought that. I think I just needed somebody to see the illiterate oaf-ness of them as well! I don’t think I would personally go that far back to explain ‘yours faithfully’ to someone. To me ‘yours faithfully’ today implies that I am being both honest and trustworthy. ‘Sincerely’ only implies truthfulness, which is why you use it when you already know someone – the trust is already implicit in the relationship. I did some googling to see if I was simply out of date and one of the first things to come up was a website called ‘investorwords.com’, which had a great definition of the similar phrase, ‘in good faith’; “The observance of honorable intent in business relations and the avoidance of any attempts to deceive in assuming and performing contractual obligations.”

    Quite phenomenal that somebody found it so inappropriate (RELIGIOUS no less) that he couldn’t just ignore it, he had to complain about it! It frightens me, but I am obviously more passionate about language than the sirs in question.

  • aberash nibret

    i want to improve my English language.

  • kayla

    How can I write English sentences effectively?

  • Darmendar Singh

    I smsed to a girl whom I just met once who came to my office for some business. I asked her if i could keep in touch with her and she said yes. One day i sent her an sms just to ask her how she was and signed off as yours, now i don’t hear from her. Please.. i don’t know what happened.

  • GBenn

    Darmendar: I would say she probably thought you were coming on to her or something. I would never just close “Yours”. SMS’ are a little informal, try using a more informal close. Such as “Thanks”.

  • Caroline Leek

    People who resort to “religious” reasons/excuses for things should be locked up. Traditions of several hundred years can’t be just suddenly ignored because someone gets it into their head that it offends their religion (which is always a matter of “human” interpretation anyway). The person who complained that “Yours faithfully” was religious in some way should be sent an English business letters book of some kind, gift wrapped, as a gift to help them overcome their ignorance and illiteracy. You should also find out where they studied business or management or whatever and write a formal letter of complaint about their former student. This reflects badly on the educational institution where this person has studied.

  • Nicholas Sturridge

    I utterly agree with the comments of Caroline Leek. I came to this site because I was shocked that the president of a professional society had sent a notice of a meeting to professional colleagues, all of whom he or she knows, and signed it Yours faithfully rather than Yours sincerely

  • Arthur R S Eagle

    I like to use “Yours lustily” if it’s a letter to someone outside of my immediate family, otherwise I just use my initials followed by two kisses (Xx).

    I have also found “Yours fellatiously” to be a particularly useful sign-off, especially when trying to win favour with a bank manager or disgruntled boss.

    I’m definitely not a big fan of “See ya!” or “laters!” – but I do sometimes find it appropriate, after a tiresome exchange of emails, to simply finish with the onomatopoeic “Arrrrgggghhhh!!!!!!!!!” – sometimes with the exclamation marks running into the tens of thousands.

    Adios!

  • sramma

    How about an email with “Blissfully yours” as sign off . any one knows waht it means?

  • Toby Lerone

    Why is it the Americans insist on doing things differently, i’m sure they do it for the sake of it – What’s wrong with the British way of doing things anyway…. its like they left for the colonies and have purposely try to do things differently ever since.

    Yours faithfully.

    One British citizen.

  • Wadey

    I have to totally agree with Toby Lerone.

    Except the Americans don’t do it for the sake of it. They do it because it is the lazy way. this way you don’t (or can’t) have to follow any rules and if you do, just change the rules (and the spelling) to the simplist form.

    The way they have changed the date system is strange too. I am still trying to work out what happened on the 9th of November?

    All the very best,
    Wadey (An Aussie).

  • John

    I am a North European and I am affected by both UK/US writing styles of English although I do not consider American English a real English language. I usually use “Best regards” but once or twice I unintentionally misspelled “Beat retards”. Take a look at your keyboard and you will see if one is not careful and has large fingers one can easily write “Beat retards” instead of “Best regards”.

    Also, I would never write “Best Regards” although many increasingly try to “kiss up” and use uppercase letter for “Regards” as well.

    I always thought that writing “Sincerely” alone was fine and I sometimes feel that writing “Yours” is very intimate and could feel even sexual… 😉 especially when a man writes to a man.

    Even writing “Dear Sir” where both words I write from an uppercase letter although others I see write “Dear sir” instead. So writing “Dear” sometimes to me sounds intimate too much when writing to another male. I suspect someone who created this writing style with “yours” and “dear” could have been a “same sex advancer”… LOL (just joking).

  • John

    Arthur, gentlemen, gentile men, ladies

    how about using the sign off “Yours sexually” and/or “Anally yours”. Also: “Yours orally” and “Yours unfaithfully” could be good ones written to good (sexual) friends or partners. Another “good” one would be “Yours sin cerely” where “sin” is separated “from the rest of the word. :Let me just write a few more without the bla-bla-bla:

    Yours sinfully
    Yours mentally
    Yours physically
    Yours emotionally
    Yours infinitely
    Yours now and always
    Yours yours yours
    Yours and only
    Yours not
    Yours philosophically
    etc.

    I’m sorry if I insulted anyone.

    Yours truly not,

    John

  • Willow

    It’s all quite simple.
    In a business letter:
    Dear Sir, Yours faithfully;
    Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms, Yours faithfully;
    Dear John/Jane, Yours sincerely.
    In any other correspondence, regardless of media, there are no rules: do what you think is appropriate.

  • Fe

    I prefer to alternate between “Regards,” and “Kind regards,” as both seem to be resonably neutral expressions. I agree with J Miles P about creating consistency.

  • serenissimus

    To all who think “Yours” would be too “intimate”. Yours is not only 1. person singular but 2. person plural – which English has lost, but can be seen in other European languages like German “Ihr” or French “Votre” and in this case it is a form of politeness and so joined with respect and of course personal distance!

    To all who think such phrases are too disingenous and hypocritical. So I think in present days it is possible to write either … with the expression of my great displeasedness – in a letter of complaint

  • ISG

    Tess,
    I’m sorry to hear that the ignorance and stupidity of those set above you has caused you trouble.
    You might refer them to one of the standard works (Fowler’s Usage or something). Obviously, if you *were* being religious, you would have used the non-standard form, “Yours Faith-fully”, with a capital F, or something similar.
    Why is it that the ignorant and just plain stupid have all the imperium, but none of the auctoritas? They have no idea what they’re talking about, but they have a big stick with which to hit you.

  • Rob

    *Sigh*
    Welcome to the uneducated generation. The generation that “finks”, “lolz” and “innit”s, and sees nothing wrong with it in the process.

    “Its a natural development of language” some high profile people argue. I just consider it to be bad manners to get it so wrong and not to care. I don’t know why I feel like that, its just the way it is.

    I’m no saint when it comes to language, but I do try to correct mistakes (how many have you counted so far), but when I read statements like “Is it just me or does nobody have manors these days” – I want to strangle the perpetrator. In that instance, at least someone had the wit to respond that they only lived in a normal sized house.

  • Deke

    I was always taught ‘You should be sincere in business and faithful to your friends, so of course some idiot got it backwards when signing letters.’

    I’ve always done that since then, but really, I don’t think it matters. No one really takes in the valediction anyway.

  • iMiM

    Speaking of lazy, Wadey… I guess as an Aussie you are lying on your back typing this because of your expert capitalization skills (or capitalisation if you can’t handle the spelling difference). I can handle both

    I do agree about the date thing. But that’s more a matter that in North America, they haven’t fully adopted the metric system. A shame really because since I am used to both systems, it’s always confusing for me so I usually stick to ISO or include the month abbrev. More unwieldy but I’m not as lazy as an Australian so I can handle it.

    Even though I’ve been taught to use “Yours sincerely” or “Yours truly”, or the reverse (Sincerely yours or Truly yours) I always refrained from using it because it always seemed insincere or false to me. I also agree, using “yours” is too intimate for my taste as a business salutation. I wouldn’t even use it for my friends/family, preferring xxx or whatever Arthur R S Eagle would find appropriate.

    I picked up using “Kind regards”, or just “Regards”, as a salutation because it had the right tone for business, and have stuck with it for the past 10 years or so. You can use it when you’re being insincere and false without guilt.

    I personally love it when non native English speakers literally translate their salutations into English. My time in Netherlands, I saw “with friendly greetings” which directly translates from ” Met vriendelijke groeten” or also “met vrolijk groeten”. However the reverse translations (by non native Dutch speakers into Dutch) are usually more interesting…

    In Dutch, vrolijk is sometimes confused by non native dutch speakers with vrouwlijk which means womanly…

    Also non native dutch speakers will mispell “groeten” with “groenten” (which means vegetables).

    So if you’re reading a letter in Dutch, you sometimes get letters with the closing..
    “with womanly greetings” or “with friendly veggies”.

    Will that catch on in English?

  • Sal

    Good thing that Tess didn’t sign off with “Yours in Christ”. Is that appropriate for a business letter? (I’m being sarcastic; don’t crucify me! Sorry, bad pun :-O)

  • Jessica

    It is a shame this string turned into an ugly American discussion. I was curious as to the origins of some closings and found this page. Throughout time word usage, like everything else, obviously changes. It makes no sense to expect language to remain unaltered while the rest of the world moves on. Resisting change simply because you feel that any change stems from ignorance or laziness seems self righteous to me. If you can’t get past the use of “Sincerely,” in a business letter from an American, you should ask yourself whether your priorities are in check and whether you have too much time on your hands. That’s an acceptable valediction in America, according to my alma mater’s business writing professors.

  • Ivor

    Dear Tess,

    I fully understand your wrath! No wonder our economy is in such a mess, when senior managers waste valuable time arguing over semantics. When working for Social Services, I was directed to compose a ‘Communications Policy’. However, my university- educated bosses complained bitterly because I used the word ‘facilitate’ – which they criticised as being too pompous (and could I please use simple language?). They would not accept that it was a word in common usage! Grrr!!!

    Yours most sincerely,

    Ivor

  • Talya

    Can I just point out to the North American dislikers, that language form does change over time? Like how in North America, practice is both the verb and the noun, while in “non-American” English, practice is a noun and practise is a verb. Language will change over the course of time. Take the invasion of William the Conqueror into England, and how that changed the shape of what we call Modern English. Take Creole, a mix of French, Portuguese, Spanish, and native languages, that morphed into Creole. Take Japanese, which took certain characters of Chinese.
    Now just think.

  • Toby

    I think the French have the right idea – the formal ending for letters is:
    Je vous prie d’agréer, Monsieur/Madame, l’expression de mes sentiments distiguées.
    This means literally – I beg you to accept, Sir/Madam, the expression of my distinguished feelings.
    So long winded, but the most memorable phrase from A-level French XD

  • martin

    My children think i’m too pedantic when it comes to thanks you and letter endings etc. Good manners cost nothing and i am dissappointed when i see the ” incorrect” ending to letters or conversations. A simple “thank you” will often suffice rather than the cheesey American ” Thank you so much.” I was a little taken aback in the supermarket when the cashier signed of with ” enjoy the rest of your Saturday “. Nice but unexpected. I mumble in that oh so British way, “Yes you too.”

  • YT

    Toby,

    That tradition continues and is in fact enhanced in diplomatic missives – in formal notes verbale (even those originating from American embassies and consulates), the valediction is usually along the lines of: “I avail myself of this opportunity to renew to you the assurances of my highest consideration”. 🙂

  • Ryan

    I’m english and always put ‘Yours’ first and dont leave it out. I’m not posh but thats what us british people do

  • Juliana

    Everyone has their own ways and opinion, so you can’t please everybody. As long as you have done your part, and your sentances are correct, well done. No one is 100% perfect in this world, and everyone is prone to make mistakes. We learn from mistakes to become better.

  • Ray

    Dislike using Dear. Open with Mr. / Ms.
    For the most part I simply use, Respectfully as the salutation.

  • Ray

    This is a large country and as such, its people settled great distances apart. The end result is, taint no merican english language, so der.
    How about India, China, Russia, and so on.

  • Winchester Summers

    I’m well and truly british and as a rule I don’t like to use ‘faithfully’, ‘sincerely’ too often, not because it is mushy but it leaves a cold feeling when you are writing/ emailing a letter.

    However I do think it is acceptable to use those terms when referring to a cover letter when applying for the job. Using any other term would potentially put the employer off and you need them to like what you have written and WANT to write it.

    I think the language and politeness we exhibit as disappeared over the years especially in certain correspondence. We don’t have the ‘please’, the ‘thank you’ like we use to and if we can end a letter in a formal, kind manner I think it’s worth it.

    When it comes to friends and family though it is a different story. I never tend to end it in those terms, just simply, “Love you” simple and to the point.

    RE: to anyone who thinks I am “old” because of what I have written, haha, I’m only 26 years old. Thanks for reading this, I didn’t mean to do such a long comment.

  • James Valois

    I am from Great Britain and I always use Yours Sincerely and Yours Truly. If you have feelings you wish to convey put them in the body of the correspondence and do shut up you tedious Americans.

  • Kirsty

    I’m British, and was taught at school ‘Yours faithfully’ for ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ and ‘Yours sincerely’ for ‘Dear Mr Smith’. (‘Dear John’ would be ‘Love from’, though depending on the recipient I might prefer to avoid that as an adult!)

    Just came here to remind myself of which it should be, as I’m writing a business letter on paper for the first time in years. I usually do all my correspondence by email, which is a far less formal medium; in emails I either start ‘Hi’ (with or without name depending on if I know it), or, if I feel that would be too casual, with no salutation at all. And I usually end with ‘Thanks’.

    But you can’t start a business letter on paper with ‘Hi’! ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ seems the only option for an unknown recipient. But ‘Yours faithfully’ did seem a bit OTTl for a letter written in a fairly friendly style – I’m an illustrator/designer, not in finance or law or something – so I just finished with ‘Thanks’. Probably all wrong, but…

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