I was recently teaching a class about writing better business letters. With the advent of email and texting, letter writing is one of those arts that appears to be fading, and I welcomed the opportunity to share some basics.
One participant wondered about the best way to send letters. Is “sincerely” the right word?
My answer was the one everyone loves: it depends. I suggested that the best way to approach the issue is to choose a word that matches the situation, formality, and purpose of the letter. For example, I prefer “best wishes,” but that’s too casual for really important letters. If you were writing someone about a legal matter involving the death of a family member, “best wishes” would actually convey a creepy tone.
When you’re writing a friendly letter to a peer or colleague, “cordially” still has a nice sound. “Very truly yours” is probably a bit too romantic for anything but deeply personal communication. “Yours” is a nice all-around choice. And when all else fails, go ahead and trot out “sincerely,” unless your letter is anything but sincere.