How many times have you spent considerable thought and effort writing a letter, only to reach the closing and then wonder how you should end it? And does it really matter whether you choose "sincerely" or "best" or "thanks" to close out your message?
While much of letter closing choices are based on personal style and attitude, there are slight differences in how different letter endings come across to the recipient of your writing. For this post, we'll discuss several common letter closings, more formally known as a valediction from the Latin vale dicere, which means "to say farewell." We will also discuss the situations for which each are best used, the connotations each might bring, and how to choose which one fits your overall intent or is complimentary with the letter you've written.
Sources we've used
Keep in mind that as with much of the advice you'll read online, ours might differ from that of another source. However, since it is important in business or formal communication to follow best practices set by respected organizations, we have used two American authorities—Barron's Educational Series and American Management Association—as our primary sources.
Closings for formal and business correspondence
According to Barron's, this is a
formal closing and AMACOM states that this should be used when there is
no personal connection between writer and recipient. Another version of this you'll see often is "Very truly yours," which again denotes a lack of personal connection between the writer and recipient of the letter. Despite the seemingly intimate associations with this phrase, it is very commonly used in business communication as a formal closing, whether you know the recipient intimately or not.
Barron's also lists this as a
formal closing and AMACOM suggests that it should be used when the letter is sent to someone either with acknowledged authority or when
great formality should be used. Again, as with "Yours truly," this is a commonly used closing that connotes formality and can be used with formal business communication that is written to associates—whether they are typically on your contact list, or not.
Often shortened to just "Sincerely," Barron's suggests that this is a
less formal closing while AMACOM states that it should be used when there is both a personal and business relationship between the writer and recipient. In general, this is a commonly used closing in American business correspondence that covers both well-known associates and those who are not well known. It is also a great choice for letters such as cover letters for a job posting, introductory letters for academic admission, or complaint letters in which the sender wishes to close with a conciliatory yet polite tone.
Often shortened to just "Cordially," Barron's lists this as another
less formal closing while AMACOM takes issue with "Cordially yours," stating that it is often used but
So, in essence, consider this a great choice for closing business communication as long as the "yours" is not added. It works for both well-known acquaintances (in business) as well as recipients who are not regularly on your contact list. It is considered to be "proper" in both situations.
Regards, Personal regards, Kindest regards,
AMACOM doesn't list either of these choices in its preferred business letter closings, but Barron's lists them as potential
personal closings. What this means is that if you plan to use them as business communication closings, or closings of letters written as cover letters or letters to admissions committees, they are acceptable yet slightly less formal than "Sincerely" or any of the versions of "Sincerely" (such as "Sincerely yours,").
This closing is an example of using your own attitude and personality to determine which closing to use in a letter.
Best, Best regards,
While not as formal as closings like "sincerely," "best" is a polite, semi-formal letter ending that could work in both a business context and when writing to acquaintances or friends. It is a polite way to let your letter's recipient know that you wish the best for them. "Best regards" makes the closing a bit more formal if you feel that "Best" is not quite formal enough for the situation.
While not overly formal or overly informal, "Thanks" is a closing that works well for business letters across the board—whether you are writing to someone not on your contact list, or to an acquaintance or peer within your organization. However, compared to how the other closings we've listed "sound" to the recipient, "Thanks" can fall a little flat or seem abrupt. To avoid this, choose "Best regards" or "Sincerely".
You should also hesitate to use "Thanks" if you've made a request in your letter, and rather choose "Thanks for your time," since the former assumes that the request will be granted, and the task will be accepted. Again, as with all the letter closings we have mentioned in this article, choose the best considering the type of relationship you have with the recipient and how formal or informal you want the letter to be.
Obviously, this is not the best closing to choose for a formal business letter or cover letter. "Your friend," should be reserved for letters written to friends, as the closing implies. Putting this closing at the end of a letter to someone who is not your close friend will seem overly informal and assumptive.
While "Cheers," or "Cheers!" might be a light-hearted and casual way to end a letter in British English, for American English, make sure that you only use it for close friends or business associates that you know on a deeply personal basis. The primary reason for this is it is an expression used in relation to alcohol, or imbibing alcoholic drinks, so it can be interpreted as too informal by many American business associates unless you know them on an informal basis.
As with "Your friend," ensure that any time you use this closing, you are only doing so in a letter that is written to someone with whom you have an intimate and familiar relationship. Using this closing in a business letter or letter written to anyone else will be off-putting and potentially offensive to your reader. Therefore, ensure that you reserve this closing for only the most intimate recipient to avoid any confusion or misinterpretation.