Sincerely and faithfully are two adverbs that are often used as complementary endings informal letters. Sincerely is an adverb that means in a sincere or genuine way. The word ‘sincerely’ is often used at the end of letters as ‘yours sincerely’ or ‘sincerely yours’.
‘Yours sincerely’ is mostly used in this manner only when the name of the recipient of the letter is known. It is used when the letter starts with salutations like Dear Mr./Ms./Mrs./Miss. etc. followed by the name of the person.
Faithfully is another word that is used commonly informal emails and letters. Faithfully is an adverb that implies loyalty. The expression yours faithfully is used at the end of formal letters, when the name of the recipient of not known.
If you are writing to someone but you only know his or her gender, you can address them as Dear Sir or Dear Madam. The correct complimentary close, in this case, would be ‘yours faithfully’ followed by your initials and surname. In this case, the salutation would read ‘Dear Madam’ and the complimentary close would be ‘Yours faithfully, M. S. Smith.’
If the person that you are writing to is not an acquaintance then use a more formal tone with a formal salutation and the complimentary close, ‘Yours faithfully.’
Although non-business letters are less formal today, it is still necessary to use the correct salutation and complimentary close. I personally use ‘Yours faithfully’ in all business letters, while I use ‘Yours sincerely’ for most of my informal correspondence.
Sometimes I also use or ‘Yours truly,’ ‘Yours respectfully,’ or ‘best regards,’ but I always choose my complimentary close carefully and make sure that the salutation matches.
Notable Differences Between Yours Sincerely and Yours Faithfully
1. ‘Yours sincerely’ is the complimentary close to use when you know the name and title of the person you are writing to, while ‘Yours faithfully’ is the one to use when you do not know the person’s name.
2. ‘Yours faithfully’ is used in business and other formal letters while ‘Yours sincerely’ is used in friendly letters.
3. ‘Yours faithfully’ is used with the salutation ‘Dear Sir’ or ‘Dear Madam,’ while ‘Yours sincerely’ is used with the salutation ‘Dear Mr/Miss/Mrs/Ms’ followed by the name of the person.
4. Sincerely can be used in both formal and informal letters while faithfully is mainly used in formal letters.
5. Sincerely is used when the recipient is known. Faithfully is used when the recipient is unknown.
Formal Letter Writing Tips you Should Know
Use an Appropriate Tone
A business or formal letter should be written in a tone that is slightly more formal than your everyday language.
Avoid the following: slang or jargon; contractions such as I’m, can’t, it’s, and vague words such as good and nice.
Be polite and respectful, even if you are complaining. Take a look at our formal letter example to see what tone is appropriate.
Once you have written your formal letter, check the grammar and spelling carefully.
Use the spellchecker on your computer and then re-read the letter yourself, as the spellchecker will not catch every error.
Use a dictionary, if necessary. Check the grammar and punctuation for correctness and make sure the sentences are complete.
It is a good idea to have someone else proofread your formal letter, even after you have done so, as it is easy to overlook errors in something you have read many times.
If this formal letter is important enough for you to take the time to write, don’t rush its completion. Errors will diminish the impact of the statement or impression you are trying to make.