When should one sign a letter with "Yours faithfully" or "Yours sincerely"?

6 Answers 6


This is called "complimentary close".

As reported by Oxford Handbook of Commercial Correspondence:

  • If the letter begins with Dear Sir, Dear Sirs, Dear Madam, or Dear Sir/Madam, the COMPLIMENTARY CLOSE should be "Yours faithfully".

  • If the letter begins with a personal name, e.g. Dear Mr James, Dear Mrs Robinson, or Dear Ms Jasmin, it should be "Yours sincerely".

  • A letter to someone you know well may close with the more informal "Best wishes".

Note that the Americans tend to close even formal letters with Yours truly or Truly yours, which is unusual in the UK in commercial correspondence.

Avoid closing old-fashioned phrases, e.g. We remain yours faithfully, Respectfully yours.

  • 4
    <rhetorical>I suppose, then, that Yr. obt. svt. is right out of the question?</rhetorical>
    – bye
    Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 14:10
  • 3
    I use the following mnemonic. Since the word 'Faith' can be a name, simply ensure that your salutation and closing contain one name. I acknowledge that this ignores more informal letters, but it helps me remember when to use sincerely and when to use faithfully
    – Dancrumb
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 0:57
  • 7
    I've always remembered this as Don't put the S's together - so Sir and Sincerely should not appear together. Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 8:38
  • Are these closings still standard in business correspondence in the UK, or do they count as old-fashioned now? (Don't want to open a new question just for this small detail.)
    – Szabolcs
    Commented Mar 10, 2019 at 18:12

I've been taught the following distinction:

  • Use "Yours sincerely" when you know the person you are addressing, i.e. Mr. Smith.
  • Use "Yours faithfully" when you are starting your letter with Dear Sir/Madam, or a similar construction.

That being said, it has been my experience that these are used less and less, especially in electronic communications. I would still prefer them in dead-tree letters, but only in the most formal of circumstances (probably when invited to a cup of tea by the Queen of England...).

  • Yes, in a printed letter that's a common convention in the UK. However, as you say, other formulae such as just "Sincerely", "Best wishes" or even just "Best" are common especially in more informal business correspondence or e-mail. Commented Feb 21, 2011 at 17:39
  • It is as @Manoochehr says if you begin with a personal name not if you know them.
    – mmmmmm
    Commented Feb 21, 2011 at 21:14

I usually just write "Sincerely,". I understand it to be a contraction of "I am yours sincerely" or "I am yours faithfully". If I used it, I'd probably invert it to "Sincerely yours," or "Faithfully yours,". These statements are typically reserved for love letters or other personal correspondence, although faithful could technically describe a business relationship.

  • edited my original question, I had wrongly said 'Your faithfully'...
    – Julius A
    Commented Feb 21, 2011 at 16:56


The Raven

The modern era does not routinely recognize the "complimentary close" as such, and its use is becoming rather quaint.

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    Best what? Best regards? Best wishes? All the best? Best of luck? Best friends for life?
    – Asclepius
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 14:13
  • 2
    Sure it's a modern era, but is "Best," what you'd use for a formal letter (like resignation letter etc)?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 3:01
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    No, you shouldn't --- formal correspondence should still use 'yours faithfully' or 'yours sincerely'. Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 13:12

Since Julius didn't specifically ask for a «commercially» correct way of signing a letter, less informal alternatives to what others have posted include:

  • Best wishes
  • Kind regards
  • Yours (truly)
  • With love
  • All the best
  • Best of luck
  • Thank You
  • Sincerely/Faithfully

I just use "Thank you" - it seems to fit everywhere and doesn't sound like the letter was auto-generated by some letter writing wizard.

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