Writing AdviceWriting, Advice
ServiceScape Incorporated
ServiceScape Incorporated

How to End a Letter: The Top 20 Ways to Say Farewell


The end of formal communicative texts is called the "valediction", the "close" or sometimes the "complimentary close". This is the polite formal end of a letter – or more commonly nowadays an email. The power of complimentary closes, however, is in their connection to the recipient or sender. All salutations are not created equal, and not every salutation is appropriate in every setting. What follows are twenty of the best ways to sign-off, say farewell, and send your love at the close of written communication in any setting.

  1. Classic: "Valediction" is latin meaning "to say farewell". That's why we call the head of a graduating class "the valedictorian" – it is their responsibility to say goodbye on behalf of the class. Valedictions have evolved across a number of mediums. Consider the letter, the e-mail, the text message, the telegram and even morse code. Like a signature which holds a host of legal meanings because of the age of the tradition of signing one's name, valedictions have evolved across years of changing technologies and social landscapes. Still, one has remained intact across the ages: if in doubt, "sincerely" is always an acceptable valediction. It reminds the reader that everything in the letter they've read was true and well-intended.
  2. Professional: In professional communication it is important to know when to stand out, and when to blend in. The close of your email to your boss is not where you want to stand out. Let your resume demonstrate your value. Don't use a strange or unfamiliar valediction. For career communications a valediction should be strictly professional, and there are a number of acceptable choices: "all the best", "best regards", "best wishes", "thanks again", or "thank you for your consideration" are all perfectly reasonable choices. These can be varied depending on the context of the e-mail, but a simple "best wishes" will suit almost any situation and can be appended to every email sent in a professional context.
  3. Super Formal: Due to the age of valedictions, certain traditions concerning the close of a letter are almost entirely lost to the history books. However, should you ever have reason to address the Queen of the United Kingdom, your letter should end "I remain, with the profoundest veneration, your Majesty's most faithful subject and dutiful servant" according to Cassell's Household Guide Volume 1, a text published in 1869 which claims to be a complete encyclopaedia of domestic and social economy […] forming a guide to every department of practical life.
  4. Formal: In very formal contexts in a modern setting, the American Management Association recommends "yours truly", "respectfully yours", "cordially yours" or "regards" depending on the context of the letter. They mention dropping "yours" in less formal cases, considering "cordially yours" to be more formal than simply "cordially". Like the professional valedictions listed above, these valedictions are acceptable in most formal modern communications.
  5. Bureaucratic: Diplomatic and bureaucratic communications use valedictions as a sort of handshake, and thus valedictions in letters communicating between armies or nations usually identify both the sender and receiver in the valediction. For instance a journal on translation gives this example: [Sender] avails itself of this opportunity to renew to [recipient] the assurances of its highest consideration. This strategy can be employed by an individual in a business context to ensure, for instance, that the receiver knows they were the intended receiver: communication herein intended only for [employee name].
  6. Informal: In many situations the valedictions so far discussed might seem too formal. When communicating with a friend or family member it may be best to use the valediction as a way of catching up, or as a way of wishing them well. In this case sentiments such as "talk to you later" "hope everything is well" and "we should hang out soon" are all perfectly pleasant valedictions. In informal situations writers should express their plans for the future and reaffirm an established relationship. Valedictions such as "thinking of you," or "love Mom" are often more impactful than any number of more formal sign-offs.
  7. Abbreviated: In the past, printing limitations prevented long valedictions, and thus in legal communication the valediction "yours, etc." and "&c." are both used to quickly conclude communications. The valediction here is serving a purpose: it indicates that communications are finished. A recipient of an important legal document may believe a page is missing, or that the communication is otherwise incomplete without the presence of a short and to-the-point valediction. In a modern context we often abbreviate for the sake of speed, "ttyl" instead of "talk to you later", for instance.
  8. Literary: Epistolary writing is narrative fiction that takes the form of letters exchanged between characters. In epistolary narratives a character's valediction can often be highly impactful, especially because the end of a letter usually corresponds with the end of a chapter – it is often the moment where a secret is revealed or tension is ratcheted up leading into the next chapter. From Dracula to Poor Folk to Frankenstein, literary valedictions like your ever-loving your most humble servant and faithful friend and Adieu! Take care of yourself; and, I entreat you, write! help to characterize the writers of letters and advance the plot.
  9. Personal: One of the best ways to create an impactful valediction is to link that valediction to a particular recipient. This could be the inclusion of a nickname or reference to an inside joke. Consider "to my sunshine," or "from one cake-bandit to another". These can be a great way to make the recipient feel special, or in writing fiction, to characterize a relationship between characters.
  10. Poetic: Flowery valedictions have their place, especially in poetic circumstances. Consider valedictions in letters sent during periods of high emotion. These often explain how the recipient is valued by the sender: "to the light of my life", "to a sister who will be a great mother", or "to my only brother."
  11. Curt: Valedictions can also be used to cut off communication or indicate a distanced tone. These are the valedictions we normally want to avoid, like: "do what you want" "for what it's worth" or "I couldn't care less". In the body of a letter these words may have enough context to dampen their negative tone, but in a valediction they will almost always seem hostile.
  12. Concerned: Reaching out via formal communication to someone perceived to be struggling or suffering a personal tragedy requires a particular valediction. These should include appeals to religion if appropriate, or to the future: "praying for you" "hoping things are looking up" or "give me a call if you need anything" are each meant to lift up or encourage.
  13. Post-Script: Sometimes a valediction is not enough or needs further explanation. A post-script often includes additional farewells or parting thoughts, or introduces a second topic. These can be effective when communicating informally, but mostly shouldn't be used in a formal context – the exception is to distinguish between pressing matters in the body of the paragraph, and less pressing information in the post-script.
  14. Post Post-Script: Post post-scripts should only be included in informal communications. Rambling in personal communications can be endearing and fun, but in formal circumstances the abbreviation "P.P.S." should be strictly avoided.
  15. No Valediction: Some forms of communication don't need a valediction, and your use of a valediction will show your age. Instant messages and text messages don't need valedictions because the conversation is never ended for a long period. Usually, it is better to avoid valedictions if it is likely that a message will be replied to immediately.
  16. Reminder: Valedictions can be used functionally. "See you all tonight" for instance, prompts the recipient to remember the event being referred to, and "see you all at 6:00" can be helpful if a meeting time has changed. Be careful not to include this information only in the valediction: a reminder like this should go in the body of the communication, and then be reiterated in the valediction if desired.
  17. Deflection: Valedictions can be used to redirect communication. Consider: "I have included contact information for the human resources department" or "I have cc'd Karen on this communication."
  18. Sarcastic: Sometimes we just want to watch the world burn. "I'm sure you will" "I'll bet that works out splendidly for you" and other such valedictions can be a great way to add some bite to unpleasant communications when burning bridges.
  19. Valediction as Signature: A valediction can be your personal signature. If every communication is signed in the same manner, then a link between the sender and the valediction is established. This can be a powerful way to set yourself apart, or to show your personal aesthetic.
  20. Symbolic: A valediction need not be text. Though now thoroughly out of style, a valediction could be in the form of a basket of flowers, a feather folded into each envelope, or an item that has its own meaning. A letter from an ex-lover which includes returned gifts received during the relationship will have an obvious impact.

In summary, the valediction is underestimated as a moment of communication. The last thought in a reader's mind, the parting blow in an argument, or a final word of reassurance – valedictions carry a host of impactful meanings.

Get in-depth guidance delivered right to your inbox.