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I already and understand Wikipedia on 'valediction and user 'Manoochehr' 's answer on ELU:

As reported by Oxford Handbook of Commercial Correspondence:

[1.] If the letter begins with Dear Sir, Dear Sirs, Dear Madam, or Dear Sir/Madam,
the COMPLIMENTARY CLOSE should be "Yours faithfully".

[2.] If the letter begins with a personal name, e.g. Dear Mr James, Dear Mrs Robinson, or Dear Ms Jasmin, it should be "Yours sincerely".

Yet why's faithfully used for unnamed recipients, but sincerely for the named?
Namely (pun intended), why do the unnamed expect faith, but the named expect sincerity?

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  • 4
    This is nonsense.
    – TimR
    Apr 7, 2015 at 2:17
  • 1
    @Law I think he's referring to the rule -- it is simply not a thing, at all, even a little bit, in AmE (can't speak for BrE).
    – cpast
    Apr 7, 2015 at 4:23
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    Both sound stilted and archaic to Americans. Seriously, I have never seen "Faithfully yours" in America. "Sincerely yours" is usually shortened to "sincerely", and even that short version is probably headed for extinction. We just don't go in so much for "valedictions"; they seem so obsequiously, quaintly pretentious. Apr 7, 2015 at 9:14
  • 1
    This is a nice question, @TRomano ;)
    – Maulik V
    Apr 7, 2015 at 9:54
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    @Maulik V: And yet they can be "dear" to you from the get-go?
    – TimR
    Apr 7, 2015 at 21:25

1 Answer 1

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Short Answer: yours sincerely and yours faithfully are shortened forms of longer phrases.

  • Yours Sincerely is short for "I am yours sincerely," and it wouldn't make much sense to say this to someone you don't know well enough to address by name.
  • Yours Faithfully is short for "I remain your faithful and obedient servant," which is not as emotionally intimate, and thus more appropriate to use when referring to persons with whom you're not familiar.

So to answer your punny question: the unnamed may expect faithful service of you without undue intimacy, but the named would be insulted or hurt if you treated them so distantly.

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  • I don't think this rings true to me. If I don't know someone by name, how can I be there obedient servant. On the other hand, I would be sincere both to someone I know by name and to someone I don't. I think the actual answer here is "these are just formal expressions and the literal meanings are irrelevant".
    – James K
    Sep 17, 2023 at 8:22

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