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I am currently in the process of writing a cover letter for an application for a PhD position. Upon proofreading it, my girlfriend, who has had training as a European secretary, told me that her English teacher instructed them not to use “Yours sincerely” as a valediction in such correspondence (such as a cover letter) anymore and use something like “Best regards” instead, stating that “Yours sincerely” is too formal and old-fashioned.

How accurate is this information?

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    "Yours sincerely" is still common enough, but it does seem more formal. – Qaz Jul 4 '14 at 22:00
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    I think it's the "yours" that makes it a bit old fashioned; I frequently close correspondence with "Sincerely", especially in formal correspondence to people I don't know (like an admissions committee). On the other hand in less formal positions, I also use "Regards". – brasshat Jul 4 '14 at 22:13
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    @brasshat: 'Yours' isn't old fashioned in British English. I would never just write 'Sincerely' and see that as American. – Peter Jul 5 '14 at 8:30
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Yours sincerely is formal but still has its place, and I would have thought that one of them was a letter applying for a position (though perhaps not an email doing the same thing).

It shows that you know how to do things properly without being as old fashioned or long winded as in I have the honour, sir, to remain your most humble and obedient servant, though you might use something similar for Queen Elizabeth II

Remember the distinction between Yours sincerely and Yours faithfully

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If you begin a letter with Dear.., then it is correct to end with Yours sincerely or Yours faithfully. In the past, all business letters would begin with Dear.., and end with Yours .. There is generally less formality around these days, with people rarely having to write actual letters, and first names being much more commonly used in business introductions. However, there is still a place for 'old fashioned' etiquette and it is often appreciated. It really depends on: 1/ How familiar/friendly you are with the person. 2/ Is the letter going to be re-presented to someone else.

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