Yours sincerely vs Yours faithfully

Discussion in 'English Only' started by majlo, Jan 13, 2006.

  1. Hey,
    Is there any difference between those expressions? I've heard that one of them, though, don't know which one, is used when we know the name of the recipient. Could you confirm it?
    Thanks :)
  2. lux86

    lux86 Member

    Supraśl, near Białystok
    Polish, Poland

    You would use sincerely when a name of the reciever is mentioned at the beginning. faithfully when it's not.


    Dear Martha.
    Yours sincerely,

    Dear Management
    Yours faithfully.

    cu! and good luck
  3. lux86

    lux86 Member

    Supraśl, near Białystok
    Polish, Poland
    and if u you start with Dear Sir or Madam you use faithfully , too. cheers
  4. GenJen54

    GenJen54 Senior Member

    Downright Pleasant, USA
    USA - English
    Hmmm. I've not heard of this "rule" before (not that it is a rule, necessarily).

    I used "Sincerely," in all business correspondence regardless of to whom the letter is addressed. I rarely use "Yours .... " at all, except in very specific circumstances.

    It seems to me that "faithfully" takes on a much more personal register than does "sincerely," which is pretty ubiquitous.
  5. Black_Mamba

    Black_Mamba Member

    Leicester, England
    My mum always said that it depends on whether or not you have met the person as well. If you have not met the person or corresponded with them before it is 'Yours sincerely' if you have met them or written to them specifically before, it is 'Yours faithfully.' Good old mum.
  6. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The difference is one of convention, not rule. It may have started with the English Civil Service, but I couldn't be sure. Dear Sir/Madam - Yours Faithfully and Dear Mr xxxx - Yours Sincerely were part of the civil service style guide at one time. That would be back in the time when "civil service style guide" wasn't littered with oxymorons.
  7. jdenson

    jdenson Senior Member

    Houston, Texas
    USA / English
    In the US, "yours truly", "sincerely", "yours sincerely", "sincerely yours", "yours faithfully", and "faithfully yours" are all used in exactly the same way. "Yours truely" and "sincerely" are probably the most common, while "faithfully yours" and "yours faithfully" are not so common.

  8. river Senior Member

    U.S. English
    "Yours truly" or "sincerely" is for someone you don't know at all.
    "Yours faithfully" is for someone you know slightly.
    "Yours sincerely" is for friends in personal letters.
  9. bartonig Senior Member

    UK English
    It's clear there is a lack of agreement as to the use of these salutations. One option available to you is to throw them out. Dispense with them! Is there a rule that demand you use them? No. Make up your own!
  10. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I only ever use them in official or impersonal correspondence where their impersonalness is an asset:)
  11. lux86

    lux86 Member

    Supraśl, near Białystok
    Polish, Poland
    Frankly, In Poland students of High schools get additional points on their final exam for placing such a phrase at the end of (for ex.) an informal letter. :D
  12. DesertCat Senior Member

    inglese | English
    I've never seen "faithfully yours" used in business correspondence in the US. It may be used in personal correspondence but I've never seen it. In personal correspondence I usually just sign my name and skip the closing salutations. I prefer to use "regards" in business.

    In any case, it's all a matter of personal style.
  13. jess oh seven

    jess oh seven Senior Member

    UK/US, English
    exactly, yes. i learned this in my administration class.
  14. jimreilly

    jimreilly Senior Member

    American English
    Part of the disagreement between various respondents could be a difference in American and British current usage. I think "faithfully" is not used often today in the US, and it seems to me, as to others, quite personal, whatever it's usage may have been in the past or in British English. And I'm older than average, so I wonder what younger people think ?
  15. maimere New Member

    New York
    English United States
    I completely agree with jimreilly. In the U.S. "Faithfully yours" or "Faithfully" are not seen almost at all, and I would almost say would take on a quasi-religious or at least highly personal tone over here. "Sincerely yours" is absolutely form-letter fodder, and "Sincerely" both for business and personal letters. I prefer a personal sign-off which melts into the signature, such as:

    I am very worried about your house burning down and
    remain anxiously yours,..."
  16. grm33223 Member

    English, UK
    In UK, 'Yours faithfully' is if one does not know the addressee (i.e Dear Sir/Madam), and 'Yours sincerely' if one does (.e Dear Mr./Mrs. X) Both sound a little strange, when you think about it- they are quite intense adverbs. Though as they are seen all the time, they are not seen as that, merely as a way to sign off correspondance.
  17. mjb Member

    Sunny Melbourne in the deep south
    Australia - English
    I was told that if you are stating something or replying to something, you end it with "Yours sincerely" but if you are requesting something, you end it with "Yours faithfully" because you are conveying a sense of humility and that only by your faith in the recipient honouring your request will your request be honoured. That sounds a bit like I'm repeating myself but I can't really figure out how to put that better so I'm leaving it how it is! Hopefully it can be figured out what I'm trying to convey.

    Yours sincerely,

  18. Karmele3 Senior Member

    Can anybody tell me the difference in use between "yours sincerely" and "yours faithfully"?
  19. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    There really is no difference in the sentiment but both phrases are considered rather old-fashioned and quaint these days although "Yours sincerely" is still, occasionally, used. "Yours faithfully" is very, very old-fashioned. Most business correspondence (in Canada, at least) is signed "Yours truly".
  20. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    The difference is that you use the former when you address your mail to a particular person (know their personal details) and the later when you don't.
    So starting a letter from:
    Dear Mr Smith,


    Yours sincerely,


    Dear Sir,


    Yours faithfully,

    This is a textbook differentiation and as you see it doesn't have much to do with reality. :)

  21. irene.acler Senior Member

    Trento - Italy
    I agree with Thomas: I have be taught at school that there is a distinction between the two expressions depending on the personal details of the person you are writing to.
  22. Hermit New Member

    English United Kingdom
    In England these are the most usual ways of signing off a business or formal letter. It is very rare indeed to use anything else unless writing to friends.

    Thomas1 describes the use correctly, but it is not only textbook, it is the norm in England.
  23. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    Thanks for this piece of information. :) I based my comment on Dimcl's message, there must be variations according to which English you speak, then.

  24. Hockey13

    Hockey13 Senior Member

    Irvine, California
    I have never heard of this distinction, but I am a child of the internet generation. We tend to not write as many formal letters, but if I write a formal email, I often finish it with my own variation that is neither of these things. Sometimes I'll write:

    Coach Gordon Bombay
  25. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    Interesting thread... it's obviously a cultural difference - "Yours sincerely" and "Yours faithfully" are so little used in Canada that I didn't even know about the "rule" discussed here.:eek: Notwithstanding our close ties to British culture/language, I guess we've adopted some less formal tendencies.
  26. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    It's not a rule, it's a convention in formal letter-writing. It is still the norm here and no one thinks anything of it.
  27. LouisaB Senior Member

    English, UK
    I would agree with this, but I think it's also a matter of register. I've noticed writers to The Times still begin simply 'Sir' (on the whole) and end almost always with 'Yours faithfully', but in other papers 'Yours sincerely' seems to be growing in popularity.

    The distinction I was taught was exactly that outlined by Thomas. The reason given was that 'faithfully' was used in its legal sense, ie the letter is written in good faith - meaning the signature is your real name, your address is as stated, and the contents of your letter are truthful to the best of your knowledge and belief. This is not something you would write to someone you know. 'Sincerely' is used for that, because it supposedly expresses something of a more personal emotion - though not a great deal, in my opinion! As Panjandrum says, it's really just a convention, that's all.

  28. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    I was taught by a very non-prescriptive English teacher at school that it was "Dear Sir/Madam + yours faithfully" and "Dear Mr(S) Smith + yours sincerely" and before reading this thread I had no idea that this rule wasn't universally observed (since I have heard it many times since).

    I think that this distinction is generally observed in the UK (as do many of my compatriots above, I see) (and I see nothing quaint or old-fashioned in it - if I were to be formal enough to call someone "Mr whatever" at the start of the letter I would view it normal to end with "yours sincerely") and I would suggest that you observe it if writing to this country. I might be a bit of a pedant but I would notice if someone got it "wrong".
  29. Janka Senior Member

    Dear friends,

    I was taught that if you know the person you are writing to, you use yours sincerely at the end, and if not, you use yours faithfully. But, a few days ago, I found a sample cover letter on the official BBC website where they started with dear Sir and ended with yours sincerely. So, is it strictly as I've written above, or the rules and English are changing?

  30. sarcie Senior Member

    English - Ireland
    As far as I know, it should strictly speaking be as you described. However, many thousands of native English speakers use "Yours sincerely" and "Yours faithfully" interchangeably - if you wrote the wrong one on a letter, it's unlikely that they would criticize you for it (or even notice).
  31. Janka Senior Member

    But BBC?????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Horrible. Who can I trust?:):confused::(
  32. Janka Senior Member

    I have to apologise to the BBC. I checked it once more and I was wrong.:eek: I can trust them. :D
  33. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    The polite formula in the UK is as you've described it:

    In formal letters:

    Dear Sir (or Madam) or (Sir or Madam) or (Sirs)

    Yours faithfully, or Yours truly,

    Less formally:

    Dear Mr Podsnap or whatever,

    Yours sincerely,

    Among friends, it's up to you and very various, I'm pleased to say.

    The BBC has a lot of people who know these rules very well, and probably a lot who don't. So don't put your entire trust in what is said on television or in the newspapers.
  34. In which sense you were wrong? Did they say "Yours sincerely" on the sample or not?
  35. moo mouse Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English UK
    Just to confuse things a bit more, I'll add my opinion.

    I was taught to use 'yours sincerely' on all formal letters regardless of whether or not you know the person's name or have met them. I was told that you only use 'yours faithfully' when you are expecting a reply from the person.

    I would say that 'yours sincerely' is much more prevalent in BE formal correspondence than 'yours faithfully', but these days (thanks to email) 'kind regards' or 'best wishes' seem to be the norm.
  36. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    I agree - since we, more often than not, write to someone whose name we know and so starting "Dear xxxx" rather than "Dear Sir", "yours sincerely" is more often the appropriate ending.
  37. Orange Blossom Senior Member

    U.S.A. English
    I have never heard of any of those rules or conventions.

    I have never used: yours faithfully, faithfully, or yours sincerely

    In official correspondence, I use


    Orange Blossom

    In personal correspondence it varies depending on whom I'm addressing and the closeness of relationship.

    Addressed to a fellow and sincere Christian I might say:

    Yours in Christ,

    Orange Blossom

    Addressed to believers of other faiths with whom I've had religious discussions or with fellow Christians.

    Peace and blessings be upon you,

    Orange Blossom

    Addressed to other friends.

    Take care,

    Orange Blossom

    In some situations I might use:

    My sincere thanks,

    Orange Blossom

    There are other closings I might use with friends, but this covers the more formal ones that I might use.

    Orange Blossom
  38. winklepicker

    winklepicker Senior Member

    English (UK)
    Dear Non-Natives,

    You may by now be hopelessly confused. I certainly am. Let's try to sum up.

    1) At some point in the past, a convention (NOT a rule as Panj points out) arose of using Dear Sir... Yours faithfully and Dear Mr Snooks... Yours sincerely. If you are faced with the question in an exam, this is probably the answer they are looking for.

    2) This convention is not now recognised by all English natives - if it ever was. There are regional, generational and individual variations. Hermit says it's 'very rare indeed to use anything else', whereas I have not used either phrase any time this last 20 years! The convention appears to be breaking down - at least in some times and in some places. (And as I've said before - threads passim - Dear Sir or Madam is dubious too.)

    3) If you are corresponding in English, you may choose to observe the 'corrrect' form, and risk sounding old-fashioned.

    4) Or, knowing that English in use is increasingly informal, you may want to examine the phrases for meaning. What are they actually for?

    In my humble opinion, they are empty phrases, worn out by time and overuse until they are now semantically Teflon-coated: they slip past without you noticing them. So one wonders what is the point of them?

    As bartonig says, throw them out and put in what you mean. I'm looking forward to hearing from you. Best wishes to you. Or any formulation you fancy. As Andreas Ramos once said, "Be creative - you're not Nancy Reagan". :)
  39. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    Hi Winklepicker, In your address to Non-natives you slip from descriptions of the state of things (1 & 2) to recommendations (3 & 4), which clearly represent your own preference for a less formal world.

    If you live in a foreign country, you need to know the conventions, so that you can write to the gas board or your internet service provider without raising eyebrows, or committing a solecism of register.

    People need to know what the simple rules are in a foreign language, and these conventions of politeness are important.

    You write as though you underestimate the ability of foreigners to gauge the tone of informal speech or writing. I've been living in France for many years and I hesitate to use slangy expressions in speech, because I know how comic slight errors of emphasis or register can be.

    So my advice to the Non-natives would be: learn the conventions and stick to them until you've become extremely familiar with the language.
  40. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    But, rightly or wrongly, arbitrary form is important in official correspondence. There are rules about where you write your address, where you write your correspondent's address, where you write the date, where exactly you start writing the text etc etc. None of them have any meaning in themselves, just a general acceptance of form.

    I completely agree that "yours sincerely" has nothing necessarily sincere about it - but I would use it after "Dear xxx" in the same way I would capitalise "I" and use a comma after "Dear xxx" and not a semi colon or an exclamation mark as they do in some other languages.
  41. winklepicker

    winklepicker Senior Member

    English (UK)
    Two recent quotes:

    Panjandrum: The difference is one of convention, not rule.

    Nun-Translator: Consciously breaking rules can be an effective technique; unconsciously breaking them just reveals ignorance.
  42. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    Is it a convention or a rule not to draw consciously conclusions from statements?
  43. Orange Blossom Senior Member

    U.S.A. English
    This is what my dad says concerning the use of signing letters with 'sincerely' or 'faithfully'.

    Sincerely is used strictly for letters of business and when the letters are impersonal. Often, the writer won't know who the person is.

    Faithfully is used when there is something involving trust or faith in the interaction between the two people.
    Other closings include:

    Respectfully yours,

    Cordially yours,

    Orange Blossom
  44. super mama New Member

    USA - English

    Yours sincerely - is used if you don't know the person
    Yours faithfully - is used when you know the person

    Hope this help!
    Super Mama
  45. Orange Blossom Senior Member

    U.S.A. English
    I never heard of that rule before reading this thread, and I have a degree in English with a masters in Language Education. What's more; my father who is 85, has 2 doctoral degrees, and studied 4 languages in addition to English; never heard of that rule. Additionally, neither of us follows that rule when signing letters, and I've never seen that pattern followed in letters addressed to me.

    I personally have never used faithfully when closing letters. I use 'sincerely' when writing impersonal business letters regardless of whether the person's name is known or not. My father does the same, and I was taught to do this in school. 'Faithfully' never entered the picture.

    'Faithfully', according to my father, is used when the subject of the letter involves a matter of trust or faith between the correspondents. Of course, the two people likely would know each other; certainly the names would be known to each other. Knowing the name, however, is not the determining factor here in whether to use faithfully or not.

    Orange Blossom
  46. roland098 Senior Member

    English UK
    UK (I don't know about USA)

    Standard practice (not old-fashioned/rare/etc)

    Dear Sir (i.e.where you don't know the name)

    Yours faithfully

    Dear Mr Jones

    Yours sincerely

    ......... simple.

    I never use Yours truly, which to the (mine anyway) English ear sounds a bit quaint or twee, and don't know any special rules applying to it. It sounds somewhat formal to me, but perhaps slightly less so than the above.

    I would never use any of these for someone I knew well or wanted to be affectionate towards. I'd just say: bye for now, see you, all the best, hugs, love, best, best wishes etc (not in any order of formality!).

    For less formal, but still businesslike, correspondance, I'd use Kind regards, or just "Regards" (ie for emails).

    PS Some of the answers on this thread go to show how arbitrary these "rules" are. But, that said, they still apply (in the UK anyway) in practice.
  47. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    Hello, Orange Blossom, You must take us Brits seriously over this: roland has made an excellent summary (apart from his doubting yours truly as an acceptable substitute for yours faithfully) of what several of us (Brits) have been saying throughout the thread. These are the conventions in formal letters, which have to be learnt by people writing such letters in the UK, who don't want to raise eyebrows. I'm not surprised the conventions are different in the States; such things often develop on different lines.
  48. Orange Blossom Senior Member

    U.S.A. English
    I never said it wasn't a pattern in England; I implied that it wasn't in the United States. :)

    In short, the letter writer needs to know the English conventions in whatever country or area he/she is writing them in.

    Following the British pattern in this case wouldn't work in the United States. I suspect the reverse is true as well.

    Orange Blossom
  49. super mama New Member

    USA - English
    Okay, i'm back!! :)

    As was pointed out " yours faithfully " is out of style but it still can be found in use especially in British English.

    Use 'Yours sincerely' when you have addressed someone by their name. Use 'Yours faithfully' if you don't know the name of the person you're writing to.

    Super mama*
  50. liliput

    liliput Senior Member

    U.K. English
    In school, I was taught "yours faithfully" for informal letters and "yours sincerely" for formal letters. This is of course nonsense, I don't know anyone who would sign a letter to a friend or family member with "yours faithfully". I usually write "see you soon" or "take care" (or both).
    Recently, in an Oxford English-Spanish dictionary, I came across the rule that several people have mentioned (Dear Sir/Madam + yours faithfully; Dear Mr./Mrs. Smith + yours sincerely). Personally, I always use "yours sincerely" for formal letters and for particularly formal emails (job applications and complaints), whoever they're addressed to. In regular emails, it's now the custom to write "Regards" or "Best Regards" - the latter being slightly more formal to my mind.

Share This Page