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I have a question regarding some valedictions in emails. As you know, “Yours faithfully” and “Yours sincerely” are sign-off phrases primarily used in British English.

These are the generally accepted rules to go by:

  • When we start an email with “Dear Sir/Madam”, i.e when we don't know the name of the recipient, we should end it with “Yours faithfully”.

  • When we start an email with “Dear Mr + Surname”, i.e when we know the name of the recipient, we should end it with “Yours sincerely”.

These rules can be found in Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage, Oxford Handbook of Commercial Correspondence and other dictionaries as well.

The problem is that I have come across some rules stating that, we can use “Yours sincerely” at the end of an email, only when we know the addressee to some degree (having met that person in real life, etc).

So, my question is - Can we use “Yours sincerely” as a valediction when we know only a recipient's name but does not know the recipient in real life? If not, what other formal expressions should we use instead?

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    Already asked and given a sensible comment on ELU. The traditional usage is to write sincerely when a business letter addresses the recipient by name. You don't say where these 'rules' about emails are, but it's my understanding that emails can be less formal than letters. Dec 9, 2022 at 12:43
  • @KateBunting - My employer, a very formally-minded legal organisation, has no rules or advice at all about ending emails. They are not letters. So for me, no 'Dear...' at the beginning (just their title and name will do), and at the end something like [With my] [very best] regards' is OK. Dec 9, 2022 at 15:05
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    We had a young lady temp start, and part of her work was to do with judges. She was left alone to send emails, until after a few weeks an elderly senior judge called the office manager to complain about the informality (as he saw it) of 'Hi Judge' at the start of an email. She was instructed to start emails 'Good morning/afternoon Judge Smith'. In the next couple of days three other judges rang the office to see if they had offended her in some way. Dec 9, 2022 at 15:09
  • @KateBunting I have come across those rules on www.grammarly. com Here it is -"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". grammarly.com/blog/sincerely-yours
    – Beqa
    Dec 9, 2022 at 16:49
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    Well, they obviously disagree with Fowler et al. I was always taught 'use sincerely to a named recipient, whether known to you or not'. Dec 9, 2022 at 17:09

2 Answers 2

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You are overthinking this.

Most native speakers will happily use "Yours sincerely," at the end of any formal letter. Hardly anybody would notice, even fewer would care.

If you are still worried, then check with your boss to find if there is some company policy. There probably isn't, in which case use "Yours sincerely," in formal emails to people outside your company.

If you are not writing on behalf of your company, I suggest a sign-off of simply:

Yours,

(name and signature)

Email, in particular, is more relaxed about formal openings and closings.

Looking at my email, People that I've met in person never use any formal closing. That includes internal emails from colleagues at work. Emails from my union close with "Yours sincerely," Emails from my kid's school use both apparently randomly, but only on attached pdf copies of letters.

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You can say whatever you like. They're your thoughts.

Shouldn't we express our own thoughts rather than empty formalisms? Wouldn't the former be honest and the latter deceitful? Or, to put it another way, what good is there in the coercing of expression?

Those are my two cents,

Alan

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  • Yes, except work situations sometimes impose things. That's The Way of the World, unfortunately.
    – Lambie
    Dec 13, 2022 at 17:56
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    You could end a letter to your tax inspector with "love and kisses" if you wanted, but it might make them suspicious.
    – WS2
    Dec 13, 2022 at 23:34
  • @Lambie Ah, money vs honesty. A perennial concern. No, scratch that. It's more of an issue than a concern, since hardly anyone is concerned by it.
    – Pound Hash
    Dec 14, 2022 at 23:56

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