In the business world, building a trustworthy reputation for your brand is paramount to success. Even your email closing should contribute positively to your image. Let’s learn how to use one common signoff, “Sincerely yours,” properly.
What It Means
“Sincerely” means proceeding from genuine feelings or beliefs. However, much in the sense of “dear” as an opening, “yours” as a closing is a formality rather than a pledge of devotion and attachment. “Sincerely yours” indicates that the person sending the correspondence (and the information and sentiments presented) are trustworthy.
Sincerely Yours vs. Yours Sincerely
Whether you use “Sincerely Yours” or “Yours Sincerely” depends on where you live. Americans use “Sincerely” and “Sincerely yours.” “Yours sincerely” is British. If you are an American writing to someone in the UK (or vice versa), you might consider using their version.
Sincerely Yours vs. Sincerely
Have you noticed that some correspondence closes with “Sincerely yours” and others with “Sincerely?” According to Oxford Dictionaries, “sincerely yours” is a formal expression used for business letters. “Sincerely” can be used in business emails or personal communication in American English.
However, whether “Sincerely” is acceptable at all is debatable to some writers. In Garner on Language and Writing, an excerpt from a column presents one argument: “When you write ‘Sincerely yours’ as a complimentary close, what you are writing in effect, is ‘I am sincerely yours.’ In this construction, sincerely is an adverb. . . Without the addition of yours. . .to complete the thought, we are left with the incomplete sentence of ‘I am sincerely.’’’
The rebuttal from James D. Mauga, appearing in the same publication, states: “Mr. Garner extrapolates the omission of yours in this instance to apply equally to “cordially, fondly, and the like” and finally to sincerely. Thus he arrives at the conclusion that yours need never appear in a complimentary close because “yours is understood.””
This interchange of opinions occurred in 1988. However, today in the United States, “Sincerely” is much more common than “Sincerely yours.” In fact, according to Jeff Butterfield in Written Communication, “Sincerely” is the most popular of all business closings. This complimentary close is most often used in formal correspondence.
British Use of Yours Sincerely
In British English, complimentary closings, the words or brief phrases that appear at the end of a message to bid the reader farewell, are called valedictions. “Yours sincerely” is governed by several usage rules in British English. To use this valediction, the sender must meet two conditions. First, he must address the recipient by name. The Brits even have a mnemonic device to remember this rule: “S and S never go together.” The first S stands for “Sir” as in the greeting, “Dear Sir or Madam.” The second S stands for “Sincerely.”
The second requirement is that the sender must know the recipient to some degree. Therefore, if you researched the name of the hiring manager for the salutation of a cover letter, you can only use “Yours sincerely” as a closing if you have previously met (or corresponded with) the individual. When writing to someone you don’t know personally, British English favors “Yours faithfully” or some other formal expression.
It was a pleasure meeting you last week. I appreciated the opportunity to interview to be a Public Relations Campaign Manager at your organization. . .
My name is Ben Graham. I am a friend of Bob Jenkins, and he encouraged me to forward my resume to you. . .
Formatting “Sincerely Yours” in Correspondence
Your margins will depend on what format you choose, but generally, a closing should appear at the same vertical point as your date. It begins one line after the last paragraph of the body of your message. Capitalize only the first word in “Sincerely yours” or “Yours sincerely.” Closings are always followed by a comma and a space for the signature.
Now you know how to use “Sincerely yours” properly, but what about other complimentary closings? Besides “Sincerely yours,” people end their emails with “Best wishes,” “Kind regards,” and various other expressions. How do you decide which closing is best?