Once you write the final paragraph of a formal letter, you may feel like you're finished and can move on to proofreading. But just as there are rules about how to address someone in a formal letter, there are also guidelines in place for how to sign off.
When ending a formal letter, it's important to convey the appropriate amount of respect to the person receiving the letter. For example, you would use a different, more conservative complimentary close for an unknown recipient than you would for a business associate you know quite well. Your closing and signature should be as professional as the rest of your letter or email message.
Using a Complimentary Close
A complimentary close, also known as a complimentary closing, is the term inserted prior to your signature in an email message or a formal letter.
This signoff phrase shows your respect and appreciation for the person who is considering the request in your letter or email.
Although it may seem somewhat old-fashioned, using a complimentary close is still considered important when writing formal business correspondence. When writing or emailing a cover letter for a job or any type of business letter, it's appropriate to use a complimentary close. Make sure to choose one, though, that is professional rather than casual.
Formal Letter Closing Examples
The following options are all good ways to close a formal letter:
- All the best
- Best regards
- Best wishes
- My best
- Respectfully yours
- Sincerely yours
- Thank you
- Yours respectfully
- Yours sincerely
- Yours truly
- Cordially yours
- With appreciation
- With gratitude
- With respect
- With sincere appreciation
- With sincere thanks
How to Choose the Best Complimentary Close
All of the options listed above are appropriate for use in business correspondence.
Choose which one to use based on how well you know the recipient and the circumstances behind your letter writing.
For instance, limit options that are some form of a thank you (such as "With appreciation" and "With gratitude") to instances where you are requesting a favor or expressing appreciation.
You can think of "Best regards," "Sincerely," “Cordially,” and the variations on these closers as the little black dress of complimentary closes. You can't go wrong choosing one of these options—they're always appropriate.
Keep in mind that if you are writing someone in the armed forces, it is customary in the military to use the complimentary close, “Very Respectfully” or its abbreviation, “V/R.”
Avoid Being Overly Casual
You are not emailing with a friend or sending a thank you note to a relative. Do not use casual signoffs like “Love,” “Cheers,” “Later,” “Ciao,” or “Always.” These options do not match the formality of your letter. Keep the professional tone of your correspondence consistent, from the salutation through the content to the sign-off.
How to Format the Closing and Include Your Signature
Always remember to follow up the close with a comma, as in the examples below. Your typed name will go after the complimentary close. If you are sending a hard copy letter, leave four lines of space between the closing and your typed name. When you print out the letter, this will give you plenty of space in which to sign your name in blue or black ink between your complimentary close and your typed name.
If you're sending an email, leave one space between the complimentary close and your signature.
You can write your title below your name, as well as your phone and email address. In emails, you can include an email signature section with contact information.
Signature Examples for Letters and Emails
Email Message Signature Example
Sales Manager, ABC Industries
Printed Letter Signature Example
More Guidelines for Writing a Formal Letter
If you're still unsure about what should be included (or not) in a formal business letter, keep these key tips in mind:
- Format Your Business Letter to Make It More Readable: Leave 1-inch margins and a double-space between paragraphs. Choose a standard font, such as Times New Roman or Arial, and a font size of 12.
- Be Concise: Avoid large blocks of text and write in short, simple sentences and paragraphs.
- Review Sample Business Letters: Check out a few business letter examples before composing your letter and then be sure to customize your message.
- Proofread Your Letter Before Sending: After you finish writing a letter, of course, always proofread it for spelling, grammatical, and punctuation errors. In order to make a good impression, your letter needs to be flawlessly constructed.
Be Respectful: “Best regards” or “Sincerely” are generally safe choices.
Keep Your Tone Consistent: Don’t be overly familiar or casual in formal business correspondence.
Follow Up the Close With a Comma: Then, follow the comma with your typed or signed name.
Proofread Before Sending Your Letter or Email: It’s important to make sure your communication is polished before you send it.