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Related to, but I believe distinct from, the following questions:

What do various valedictions mean in the context of a written (business) letter, and what do the following typically convey?

  1. Best,

    Best what? Is this short for best wishes or best regards? If this is a shortening of the phrase, is it rude?

  2. Regards,

    Also unclear what this means in a valediction. Does this mean I'm thinking of you?

  3. Best Regards,

  4. Cordially,

  5. Good Wishes,

  6. Many Thanks,

    Is this more or less formal than "thanks"?

  7. Thanks,

    Am I right that this is a rude way to close a letter?

  8. Most Sincerely,

    Is this expression too much?

  9. Sincerely,

  10. Thank You,

  11. Yours truly,

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4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I end almost all my emails with one word only: "Bill". When I applied for a teaching job last year, I ended it with "Sincerely yours," & when I send letters to some clients, I end them with "Bill Franke, Medical Editor". "Thanks; Many Thanks; Best; & Regards" are all informal but not rude. They're not my style, so I never use them. All the rest but #8 are formal & polite, & they're appropriate for business letters: but different countries have different styles. "Most sincerely" is obsequious & should always be avoided: you're either sincere or not sincere, never some degree of sincere.

All valedictions mean the same thing: "Bye-bye. Letter's over. Hope you like what I said and that you hire me or buy my product or give me whatever else I asked for." They're just socially approved formulas for various types of letters. Check a How to Write a Business Letter manual for the countries you want to send letters to. You'll see that styles differ for the UK, the USA, and Hong Kong. Use the one that's appropriate for the letter you're writing.

There are others that are popular, e.g., "Yours faithfully" (a UK valediction, I believe)

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There are entire books of business etiquette about when it should be "sincerely" vs "faithfully". So unless you have a secretary educated in the 1950s I would just use your name, or thank you –  mgb Nov 9 '12 at 16:06

Nos. 1 and 7 are informal, but certainly not rude. I wouldn't use those shortened forms with people I didn't know very well, but they work nicely with close acquaintances, when more formal options like #3 and #11 begin to sound awkward.

No. 8 is rather formal and perhaps old-fashioned, and could be too much, but I don't think anyone would be put off by it.

No. 5 should probably be expressed as "Best wishes," not "Good wishes,".

Generally speaking, valedictions like these can be split into two categories: such as formal and informal, polite and friendly, or standard and unique. Often, people will use the former categories (formal, polite, standard) when writing to someone they don't know very well, or someone in a position of authority, and the latter categories (informal, friendly, unique) when writing close friends or peers.

I'd classify Nos. 3, 4, 9, and 11 as formal, polite, and standard, while Nos. 1 and 7 would be informal and friendly, along with other sign-offs such as "Cheers,".

Nos. 2 and 10 could bleed into either category.

Toodles,

J.R.

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  1. I have always interpreted "Best" as pithy backformation of "All the best".
  2. Which raises the question, where does "All the best" come from? And I think that phrase derives from a shortening of "Wishing you all the best".
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Ladies, Gentlemen, In response to the original poster's first question I would like to direct you to my response on this thread: Meaning of the valediction "Yours, &c.", reproduced here. Please excuse the some irrelevant items as I was answering a different question.

"I am not particularly well-versed in this subject, but I do think I should chance an answer here.

The 'et cetera' or '&c' part of the valediction 'Yours &c' is a contraction for a common valedictory statement used during earlier eras of English, as stated before, when relationships between the sender and recipient were more clearly defined--the contraction being of the formal

"I remain, sir, your most loyal and faithful servant"

Used, perhaps, even in correspondence between peers as a respectable gesture of putting oneself in the service of one's correspondent.

But how did we come to 'Yours, etc' from here?

You'll notice that the form used above is 'YourS' and not 'Your', which is used in the expanded valediction.

This is because the 's' is contraction for 'servant' and as such 'Yours etc.' meant 'Your servant, etc (most humble, loyal, faithful, sincere. . . .)' and thus even the more common 'Yours faithfully' and 'Yours sincerely' used today meant 'I remain, sir, your most faithful servant' and 'I remain, sir, your most sincere servant'--the former of which is used when the sender does not know the recipient in person.

And thus more archiac version of 'Yours, &c' would be 'I remain, &c' which you will still find appended to some letters today.

Hope this is satisfactory."

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