In business or formal letters, the word "sincerely" is normally part of the complimentary close, which occupies the space between the end of the letter body and the signature. Formal letters have a standard structure, beginning with the sender's address or letterhead, and then the recipient's address, the date, a salutation, the letter body, a valediction or complimentary close and a signature, usually first handwritten and then printed.
When to Use a Formal Valediction
The degree of formality you use in the complimentary close depends on your relationship with the letter recipient. When writing to a superior, such as a manager, potential employer or professor, you should be more formal than when writing to a peer. The less well-acquainted you are with the recipient, the more formal the valediction. Any official or business correspondence that becomes part of public or company records or is circulated to multiple recipients should follow formal letter-writing conventions."Sincerely" and its variants are formal and professional in tone, for use with hierarchical superiors or strangers, and in official correspondence.
Choosing Your Valediction
In most business or formal contexts, "Sincerely," "Sincerely yours," "Yours sincerely," "Thank you," "Respectfully yours" or "Yours truly" are considered appropriate valedictions; choosing among them is a matter of personal taste. Other commonly used closes, such as "Best," "Regards" or "Cordially" are slightly less formal, and may be used with colleagues with whom you are personally acquainted, but not with strangers. If the complimentary close consists of more than one word, only the initial letter of the first word should be capitalized.
Positioning Your Complimentary Close
Place the "Sincerely" two lines below the last paragraph of the letter body. In full block and personal business style letters, the complimentary close and signature are placed on the left margin, but in modified block style they are placed slightly to the right of the center of the page. A comma follows the "Sincerely."
Closing Your Emails
Although electronic communications are often more casual than paper ones, cover letters, application letters and official business correspondence use the same conventions for valediction as paper letters, with one exception. If you are sending short messages from a cell phone, or corresponding with people in your own organization, short valedictions such as "Sincerely," "Cordially" or "Regards" are standard. Also, only allow one space rather than two spaces between the last paragraph of the letter body and the complimentary close in emails to reduce the need for scrolling.
- Purdue Online Writing Lab: Writing the Basic Business Letter
- Colorado State University Writing Studio: The Complimentary Close
- Public Works and Government Services Canada: Yours sincerely, Yours truly, Yours very truly
- University of Illinois College of Education: Business Letter Format for Cover Letters
- North Crawford School District: Personal Business Letter
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