People often write to me asking for help with salutations. But when I read their questions, I find that they deal with “Best regards” or “Sincerely yours.” Those are complimentary closes.
Let’s look at the differences.
A salutation is a greeting we use at the beginning of an email, a letter, or a note. Even a text or an online comment can begin with a salutation.
In a letter, salutations nearly always begin with “Dear”:
(We use a comma after the greeting in a personal letter in the U.S. and Canada. In other countries the punctuation is often omitted.)
Dear Dr. Gomez:
(We use a colon after the greeting in a business letter in the U.S. and Canada. Other countries often leave it out.)
Salutations in emails can begin with “Dear” if the message is formal. Otherwise, they are more likely to be one of these:
Hello to all,
A comma normally sets off an individual’s name in direct address (for example, “Thank you, Margo”), but most people leave it out these days in greetings. (I am trying hard to let go of that comma, but I still write things like “Hello, John.”)
A complimentary close or closing is a polite ending to a message. In letters, these are common closes:
Best regards, (We use the comma in the U.S. and Canada; other countries may leave it out.)
A complimentary close is not a must in email, but it warms up the end of the message. People usually end an email with a complimentary close if they open it with a greeting. Examples:
All the best,
As a traditionalist, I like to use “Thanks” sincerely in a sentence ending with a period. Example: “Thanks again for helping me finish this project.” But “Thanks” alone has become a popular close.
Maybe the expression “greetings and salutations” has led people to believe that the greeting starts a message and the salutation ends it. But that just isn’t so.
Do you have questions about salutations or closes? Just type your search phrase in the box at top right. I have covered salutations for married couples, doctors, etc., along with complimentary closes for all kinds of situations.