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‘Yours sincerely’ vs. ‘yours faithfully’

These two matching expressions have an identical purpose. They exist to finish formal letters and communications in a respectful and professional manner and are generally considered more formal than other options, e.g. ‘regards’, ‘best wishes’ etc. Any professional writing to a client- for example, a lawyer writing to a homebuyer- would use this to sign off his letter. There is a clear but easy-to-learn rule regarding when you can use ‘yours sincerely’ and when you can use ‘yours faithfully’ in spite of their shared purpose.

If you do not know the name of the recipient, or you begin the letter with a general address such as ‘to whom it may concern’ or ‘dear sir/madam,’ use ‘yours faithfully’. If, however, you do have the name of the person reading, use ‘yours sincerely’. A good way to remember it is that you need ‘faith’ to believe your letter will reach the correct audience even without a name at the top. In the US it’s also increasingly common to finish letters ‘yours truly’. Begin this final closing line indented from the rest of the text, with a capital letter for ‘yours’ and below this phrase you can sign your name. If you see the letters ‘p.p.’ next to such a signature it is short for the Latin ‘per procurationem’ and means that the writer was too busy to sign it himself, but it has been signed by his secretary or other employee.

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