Sincerely or Faithfully?

If you know the name of the person you’re writing  to (‘Dear Jane…’) use sincerely. If you don’t know the name of the name of the person you’re addressing then you should use faithfully.

Emails tend me be less formal than traditional letters so you could always keep it simple and use regards/kind regards.


Yours sincerely and Yours faithfully are both traditional ways to end a letter. Letter writing over the years has been an art form and signing off has a long history with conventions attached to it. When you sign off a letter at the end, phrases such as Yours sincerely are known as valedictions. Take a look at these examples :

  • Yours truly
  • Kind regards
  • Yours hopefully

For our American readers there is little fuss over the sincerely/faithfully question because there it is common to use sincerely and not muddle things by adding faithfully to the equation.

But for the rest of us the question arises about how to sign off a letter and make sure that we are using the correct valediction.

Here is how we do it (and how to remember which one to use: faithfully or sincerely).

Yours sincerely

This is used if you know the person’s name (perhaps the job advertisement has told you to send letters to a Mr J. Fox). You know their name so you will be addressing the letter to them and signing off Yours sincerely.

Yours faithfully

This is used where you do not know the name of the person to whom you are sending the letter. You may have seen a job advertised but you have not been given a name to address your cover letter to. You may start your letter, Dear Sir or Madam and end it with Yours Faithfully.

Sincerely or faithfully: How Do I Remember Which One To Use?

This is how I remember it: if you are writing a letter to someone and you do not know their name you are writing to them blindly and you must have blind faith that they will reply and be helpful. With this faith in mind you must use faithfully.

If you know the name of the person you are writing to then you are in a stronger position to be sincere in your letter to them: use sincerely

Sincerely or faithfully: another way to remember which one to use.

Many people remember it like this:

Never use Sir with Sincerely

So if you open with Dear Sir or Madam you will never end with sincerely; you will use faithfully.

Remember that a covering email is usually a little less formal and frequently uses less stuffy ways to sign off ; you may use lighter language to sign off such as Regards.

Perhaps you have your own ways of remembering valedictions. Leave your own ideas in the comments section.

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3 Responses to Sincerely or Faithfully?

  1. Rolffie December 24, 2014 at 9:41 pm #

    The usage of “sincerely” and “faithfully” as described above is nonsense. If you only know a person’s name you clearly do not know the person so “faithfully” is the only valediction that can be used. The meanings of the nouns “person” and “name” are not synonymous but in the above criteria they have been used as such.

    Person : A human being regarded as an individual

    Name : A word or set of words by which a person or thing is known, addressed, or referred to i.e. label

    One then has to clarify what is considered to be the meaning of to know a person. As the noun “person” in this case is the object the word “know” has the following meaning:

    [WITH OBJECT] Have developed a relationship with (someone) through meeting and spending time with them; be familiar or friendly with:

    It would therefore seem that “faithfully” is the only valediction unless one has met the addressee! It would seem that the above guide to usage is pretty much useless. I was taught if you know the person “sincerely” and if you don’t know the person “faithfully”. KNOWING A NAME IS NOT KNOWING A PERSON! I’m not a scholar of the English language but I do understand that “person” and “name” mean different things. I would seem that English guidelines have been adulterated to allow the one size fits all American usage.

    • JobFoxUK December 27, 2014 at 9:31 am #

      Oxford University Press does not agree that this is nonsense:

      “The wording at the end of a business letter follows a standard format:

      If you know the name of the person you’re writing to, you should end the letter with Yours sincerely.

      If your letter begins with Dear Sir or Dear Madam, it should end with Yours faithfully.”


    • Tim February 27, 2015 at 1:57 pm #

      Regardless of your sensible, laudable, logical, and probably better suggestion, the convention is as the Job Fox describes, namely (pun intended) “Sir doesn’t go with sincerely”.

      To use faithfully where you know the name, but have otherwise no knowledge of the person, will look odd to most people and distract from the purpose of the letter.

      Having said that, language changes. Maybe when you were at school, your definition was more generally accepted, but since then the custom has changed. Maybe in a couple of generations, the distinction between sincerely and faithfully will be less known and so widely disregarded that it becomes irrelevant. Maybe we’ll just put a smiley and hit send.

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