Your Sincerely or Yours Sincerely? Which Is Correct?

Marcus Froland

Writing emails and letters in English can feel like walking through a minefield. You’re doing your best to sound professional and polite, but then comes the sign-off. That’s right, the part where you have to decide how to end your message. It seems simple, but this is where many of us hit a wall. Is it “Your Sincerely” or “Yours Sincerely”?

This might seem like a small detail, but in the world of email etiquette, it holds more weight than you’d think. After all, the closing of your letter is the last impression you leave with the reader. You want to make sure it’s a good one. But don’t worry, we’re here to clear up the confusion once and for all. The answer might surprise you.

When ending a formal letter, choosing the right words is key. Your Sincerely and Yours Sincerely might sound similar, but only one is correct in most English-speaking countries. The proper way to close a letter is with Yours Sincerely. This phrase is used when you know the person’s name to whom you’re writing. It’s a polite and traditional way to end a letter, showing respect and professionalism. Remember, using Yours Sincerely helps ensure your letter maintains the right tone, making a good impression on the reader.

Understanding the Correct Use of “Sincerely” in Correspondence

In order to properly use “Sincerely” in your correspondence, it’s essential to understand its historical roots as well as the modern-day variations between American and British English. This knowledge helps ensure the closing accurately reflects the intended tone and level of formality.

The Historical Significance of “Sincerely”

Originating from the Latin word “sincerus,” which means clean and pure, “sincerely” evolved to include honesty in its various meanings. As a formal letter closing, it has been in use since around 1700, signifying that the sender is a genuine and honest correspondent.

“Sincerely” in a letter can be traced back to the Latin word “sincerus,” which means clean, pure, and honest.

Modern Usage of “Sincerely” in American and British English

Today, the usage of “Sincerely” differs between American and British English. In the United States, “Sincerely” on its own or combined with “yours” is considered an appropriate closing for business letters and emails, conveying a formal yet not overly stiff tone. Conversely, British English primarily employs “Yours sincerely” with specific rules, such as following a salutation with the recipient’s name. The mnemonic “S and S never go together” stresses that closing a letter with “Sir/Madam” should not be paired with “Sincerely.”

  1. American English: “Sincerely” or “Sincerely yours” – Formal but not overly formal
  2. British English: “Yours sincerely” – Follows a salutation with the recipient’s name

When to Use “Sincerely” in a Letter or Email

Traditionally, “Sincerely” was meant to be used when writing to someone with whom you have previously interacted. While adherence to this rule has lessened in the United States, it still holds sway. In recent times, “Sincerely” alone has gained popularity in American business correspondence, striking a balance between formality and personal touch. In contrast, British English remains more rigid, coupling “Yours sincerely” with familiarity with the recipient and reserving “Yours faithfully” for unknown recipients.

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Email type American English British English
Addressed to a known recipient Sincerely or Sincerely yours Yours sincerely
Addressed to an unknown recipient Sincerely or Yours truly Yours faithfully

In professional correspondence, it’s vital to choose the appropriate sign-off that adheres to proper email etiquette and business letter closing standards. Understanding the correct use of “Sincerely” and its variations contributes to clear, genuine, and respectful communication.

The Debate Over “Sincerely Yours” vs. “Yours Sincerely”

When it comes to concluding a letter or an email, the choice between “Sincerely Yours” and “Yours Sincerely” often leads to confusion given the differences between American and British letter closings. Understanding these distinctions and the nuances of correspondence etiquette can be key to avoiding missteps when crafting a professional message.

In American English, the preferred closing is “Sincerely yours,” while in British English, the more commonly used phrase is “Yours sincerely.” This variation highlights one of several notable differences in correspondence etiquette between the two English-speaking cultures. To ensure the proper level of formality, it is essential to select the appropriate closing based on the preferences of your recipient’s locale.

“Your use of ‘Sincerely Yours’ or ‘Yours Sincerely’ may be influenced by the geography and preferences of your correspondent.”

  1. American English: Sincerely yours
  2. British English: Yours sincerely

It is worth considering the location and cultural background of your recipient when deciding which closing to use. By respecting the conventions of your recipient’s language, you demonstrate attentiveness and professionalism, further enhancing the clarity and precision of your message.

Location Preferred Letter Closing
United States Sincerely yours
United Kingdom Yours sincerely

Distinguishing Between “Your Sincerely” and “Yours Sincerely”

Many people inadvertently make common letter errors while closing their correspondence. One such frequent mistake is using “Your sincerely” instead of the correct “Yours sincerely.” Let us learn more about this mistake and why it is important to use the right possessive pronoun when ending a sentence.

The Common Error Explained

The error occurs when individuals use “Your sincerely” instead of “Yours sincerely.” “Your” is a possessive adjective, while “Yours” is the appropriate possessive pronoun. The correct phrase, “Yours sincerely,” signifies the complete sentiment of the writer, implicitly conveying the message, “I am yours sincerely.” Incorrectly using “Your sincerely” can detract from the professionalism of the correspondence.

Remember, the correct letter closing should include the possessive pronoun “Yours,” not the possessive adjective “Your.” Using the wrong closing can appear unprofessional.

Avoiding this mistake is crucial for maintaining clarity and professionalism in your letters and emails. Here are some tips to help you remember the distinction:

  • Double-check your letter closings: Always proofread your correspondence before sending it out, with a particular focus on sign-offs. This will help you catch any errors involving “Yours” or “Your.”
  • Practice: The more you use the correct closing, “Yours sincerely,” the easier it will be to remember in the future.
  • Take note of the error: Keep the distinction in mind whenever you write a formal letter or email so that you consistently use the correct possessive pronoun in the closing.
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Be vigilant and avoid using the incorrect closing, “Your sincerely,” in your professional correspondence. Familiarize yourself with the appropriate use of the possessive pronoun “Yours” to convey the intended sentiment and maintain a professional tone in your letters and emails.

Formality and Tone: Choosing the Appropriate Closing

Choosing the right closing phrase in a letter or email can contribute to the overall tone and formality of the correspondence. A mismatch between the level of formality in the letter’s opening and closing can be jarring or give an unintended message. The use of Sincerely, Sincerely yours, Yours sincerely, or variations thereof like Yours truly and Yours faithfully, serve different levels of formality and familiarity, which need to be matched to the context and the recipient.

  1. Reflect on your relationship with the recipient: Are you acquaintances, colleagues, or friends?
  2. Assess the purpose of the correspondence: Is it for a business inquiry, a formal complaint, a thank you note, or personal communication?
  3. Take note of the opening and ensure consistency in tone throughout the letter or email.

Matching the appropriate closing with the opening of your letter or email will create a harmonious and professional correspondence.

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” – Mark Twain

Different cultures and industries may have preferred formalities. Here are some examples of appropriate email sign-offs based on varying degrees of formality:

Formality Level Opening Salutation Email Sign-off
Very Formal Dear Sir/Madam, Yours faithfully,
Formal Dear [Recipient’s Name], Yours sincerely,
Semi-Formal Hello [Recipient’s Name], Best regards,
Informal Hi [Recipient’s Name], Best,

Keep in mind that professionalism and courtesy should be maintained in any type of correspondence. Ultimately, your choice of formal letter closings and tone in correspondence will impact the perception of your message. Taking the time to choose an appropriate email sign-off will ensure your message is well-received and leaves a lasting impression.

“Sincerely” vs. “Truly” vs. “Faithfully”: When to Use Each

In correspondence, the choice between “Sincerely,” “Truly,” and “Faithfully” can impact the overall tone and formality. Understanding the distinctions and proper usage rules for these letter sign-off variations is crucial in maintaining professionalism in correspondence. Let’s explore the differences between US and UK letter etiquette and how formality implications affect business correspondence.

Variations in US and UK Letter Etiquette

Proper letter closings vary between US and UK English, with geographical conventions dictating different implications and usage rules for “Sincerely,” “Truly,” and “Faithfully.” In the United States, “Yours truly” serves as an acceptable sign-off whether the recipient is known or not. However, British practice reserves “Yours faithfully” for unknown recipients and “Yours sincerely” for known ones, with the latter typically following a letter opening containing the recipient’s name.

Remember: “Yours truly” in the US is acceptable for both known and unknown recipients, while the UK uses “Yours faithfully” for unknown recipients and “Yours sincerely” for known ones.

The Implications of Formality in Business Correspondence

The formality level of your letter sign-off can have significant implications for how the recipient perceives your message and, subsequently, your reputation. Utilizing a correct and appropriately formal closing, such as “Sincerely” or its counterparts, maintains a professional tone and expresses respect towards the recipient.

  1. Maintain professional tone: The appropriate closing demonstrates your understanding of proper etiquette and showcases your professionalism, reflecting well on your character.
  2. Convey respect: By adhering to established formal correspondence rules and respecting regional differences, you display due consideration for your recipient’s background and preferences.
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On the other hand, committing missteps in formality levels can negatively impact the sender’s reputation and the effectiveness of their communication. This risk underscores the importance of comprehending the nuances in proper letter sign-offs.

Mastering the art of professional letter writing entails understanding letter sign-off variations and their regional distinctions. Properly choosing between “Sincerely,” “Truly,” and “Faithfully” according to US and UK etiquette can significantly influence the tone and perception of your business correspondence, contributing to its success and solidifying your reputation as a sophisticated and considerate communicator.

Alternative Closings for Letters and Emails

While “Sincerely” and its variants are standard formal closings, there are other options available for you to express varying degrees of formality in your letters and emails. Your choice should be informed by the specific context of your correspondence, such as industry expectations and individual relationships.

For more formal communications, consider professional alternatives to “Sincerely,” such as “Regards,” “Best regards,” “Cordially,” or “Yours respectfully.” These options allow you to maintain an appropriate level of professionalism while adding a distinct touch to your closing statement.

On the other hand, when dealing with less formal interactions, you can explore friendly letter closings that convey a more casual correspondence etiquette. Popular informal email sign-offs include “Best wishes,” “Take care,” “All the best,” or even more intimate expressions like “See you soon,” “Lots of love,” and “Hugs and kisses” for close friends and family. Just remember to reserve these casual sign-offs for personal communications, as they are considered unprofessional in formal settings.

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