The Complimentary Close in a Letter or Email

Regards, Sincerely, Best

Complimentary close
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The complimentary close is the word (such as "Sincerely") or phrase ("Best wishes") that conventionally appears before the sender's signature or name at the end of a letteremail, or similar text. Also called a complimentary closing, closevalediction, or signoff.

The complimentary close is usually omitted in informal communications such as text messages, Facebook entries, and responses to blogs.

Examples and Observations

September 28, 1956

Dear Mr. Adams:

Thanks for your letter inviting me to join the Committee of the Arts and Sciences for Eisenhower.

I must decline, for secret reasons.


E.B. White
(Letters of E.B. White, ed. by Dorothy Lobrano Guth. Harper & Row, 1976)


October 18, 1949

Dear José,

I am glad to hear that you are only half dead. . . .

The moon which moves around over Havana these nights like a waitress serving drinks moves around over Connecticut the same nights like someone poisoning her husband.

Sincerely yours, 

Wallace Stevens
(Excerpt from a letter by American poet Wallace Stevens to Cuban critic José Rodriguez Feo. Letters of Wallace Stevens, ed. by Holly Stevens. University of California Press, 1996)​

The Complimentary Close to a Business Letter

"The complimentary close must be included in all but the simplified-letter format. It is typed two lines below the last line of the body of the letter...

"The first letter of the first word of the complimentary close should be capitalized. The entire complimentary close should be followed by a comma.

"The choice of the proper complimentary close depends upon the degree of formality of your letter.

"Among the complimentary closes to choose from are: Yours sincerely, Very sincerely yours, Sincerely yours, Sincerely, Cordially, Most sincerely, Most cordially, Cordially yours.

"A friendly or informal letter to a person with whom you are on a first-name basis can end with a complimentary close such as: As ever, Best regards, Kindest regards, Best wishes, Regards, Best."
(Jeffrey L. Seglin with Edward Coleman, The AMA Handbook of Business Letters, 4th ed. AMACOM, 2012)

-"The most common complimentary close in business correspondence is Sincerely. . . . Closings built around the word Respectfully typically show deference to your recipient, so use this close only when deference is appropriate."
(Jeff Butterfield, Written Communication. Cengage, 2010)

- "Business letters that begin with a first name--Dear Jenny--can close with a warmer ending [such as Best wishes or Warm regards] than Sincerely."
(Arthur H. Bell and Dayle M. Smith, Management Communication, 3rd ed. Wiley, 2010)

The Complimentary Close to an Email

"It’s time to stop using 'best.' The most succinct of e-mail signoffs, it seems harmless enough, appropriate for anyone with whom you might communicate. Best is safe, inoffensive. It’s also become completely and unnecessarily ubiquitous. . . .

"So how do you choose? 'Yours' sounds too Hallmark. 'Warmest regards' is too effusive. 'Thanks' is fine, but it’s often used when there’s no gratitude necessary. 'Sincerely' is just fake—how sincere do you really feel about sending along those attached files? 'Cheers' is elitist. Unless you’re from the U.K., the chipper closing suggests you would’ve sided with the Loyalists.

"The problem with best is that it doesn’t signal anything at all. . . .

"So if not best, then what?

"Nothing. Don't sign off at all. . . . Tacking a best onto the end of an email can read as archaic, like a mom-style voice mail. Signoffs interrupt the flow of a conversation, anyway, and that's what email is."
(Rebecca Greenfield, "No Way to Say Goodbye." Bloomberg Businessweek, June 8-14, 2015)

The Complimentary Close to a Love Letter

"Be extravagant. As much as you might mean it, don’t end with 'Sincerely,' 'Cordially' 'Affectionately,' 'All best wishes' or 'Yours truly.' Their punctilious formality smacks of someone who wears wing tips to bed. 'Your humble servant' is appropriate, but only for certain kinds of relationships. Something closer to 'Truly, Madly, Deeply,' the title of the British film about undying (for awhile) love, might do.

"On the other hand, if you’ve done your job up till the last sentence of so intimate a letter, the swooning reader won’t notice the omission of this epistolary convention. Be bold. Skip it."
(John Biguenet, "A Modern Guide to the Love Letter." The Atlantic, February 12, 2015)

An Archaic Complimentary Close

The typical complimentary close has grown shorter and simpler over the years. In Correct Business Letter Writing and Business English, published in 1911, Josephine Turck Baker offers this example of an amplified complimentary close:

I have the honor to remain,
Most Eminent Sir,
With profound respect,
Your obedient and humble servant,
John Brown

Unless used for humorous effect, an amplified close such as this one would be regarded as wholly inappropriate today.

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "The Complimentary Close in a Letter or Email." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 26). The Complimentary Close in a Letter or Email. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "The Complimentary Close in a Letter or Email." ThoughtCo. (accessed December 7, 2021).