UPDATED IN DECEMBER 2016
Many people visit this site in search of answers to their etiquette questions. One popular query is "How do I end a letter?" Another is "Is Best regards acceptable?"
It's the "complimentary close" or "complimentary closing" that business writers are wondering about, those phrases that come before the signature in a letter. The complimentary closes below are listed from (1) very formal to (14) very warm.
- Very truly yours,
- Yours truly,
- Sincerely yours,
- Best regards,
- Kind regards,
- With thanks,
- Best wishes,
- Warm wishes,
- Warm regards,
All of the complimentary closes above are acceptable. You can choose among them based on your taste and the type of business letter. A letter informing someone of a job layoff might use "Sincerely yours." Congratulations on a retirement might end with "Warm wishes." If you're not sure which close fits your letter, choose "Sincerely."
"Best regards" has become more and more common, and it may soon eclipse "Sincerely" in popularity. "Regards" is the minimalist version. I don't use "Regards" because it seems curt rather than friendly.
"Cordially" means "warmly" and "sincerely," but the word feels too reserved to me. I prefer "Warm wishes" or "Sincerely," which both feel warmer. But it's a question of preference–not appropriateness. I simply don't prefer "Cordially."
"With many thanks" has its proper place. However, the words "Thank you" are not a complimentary close–they are part of a sentence. They belong in the body of the letter fleshed out and with a period at the end, like this example: "Again, thank you for helping me with the auction."
Do not use "Kindly" as a close. If you like the word kind, choose "Kind regards."
Of course, "Affectionately" would be right only in a very close business relationship. "XOXO"? Only if you dare!
To master the details of courteous, relationship-building writing, get my book Business Writing With Heart: How to Build Great Work Relationships One Message at a Time. You can get a signed, personalized paperback with a laminated bookmark from my website. Or get it for your Kindle (from Amazon) or your Nook (from Barnes & Noble). Get a free Kindle app.
The proper close for a letter of sympathy or condolence is one of these, or something similar:
- In deepest sympathy,
- With our condolences,
- In sympathy,
- Very sincerely,
As you have probably noticed, only the first word of the complimentary close is capitalized, despite the title of this post.
In business writing classes, people have asked, "Do I have to write Sincerely if I can't stand the person and I don't feel sincere?" The answer is yes. "Sincerely" is a much more gracious close than "Spitefully" or "With strong malice." (Note: I am joking. The two previous closes would never be used in a business letter.) Besides, "Sincerely" communicates positive energy and a knowledge of proper etiquette.
If you would like to have someone edit or proofread your business letters, please ask my partner, Scribendi. I do not provide this service, but Scribendi does excellent, fast work.