Dear Help Desk:  How to End a Business Letter

 Podcasts for Learners of English

 

Dear Listeners,
The ESL Help Desk is glad that you have stopped by! The ESL Help Desk is a unique podcast for learners of English because all of our examples and activities are based on authentic language, either written or spoken by others learners of English. Our Library contains audio stories, grammar and communication lessons. If you are taking an English as a Second Language class or are learning English on your own, the ESL Help Desk has something for you! Our Library contains audio stories, grammar and communication lessons.  If you are taking an English as a Second Language class or are learning English on  your own, the ESL Help Desk has something for you!

Dear Help Desk:  How to End a Business Letter

Welcome to The ESL Help Desk. We're Interactive!  

Today's podcast, "How to End a Business Letter," is second in a two-part series that was initiated on request from a listener. You may want to access Part One, "How to Begin a Business Letter" in order to receive the complete series.  I hope you enjoy today's podcast and the complete series.


Dear Help Desk,

I have been enjoying your podcasts and look forward to each one.  In your podcasts you have invited us to share our questions with you, and I would like to take advantage of your offer, if you don't mind.

I have written a letter in English only once or twice, but in the near future I want to send letters to foreign universities. I would like to study abroad after graduation, so I'd like to know how to write English letters politely.  I'm particularly interested in how to begin and end the letter.

Sometimes I send emails in English, and I usually end the email with "bye".  I know that "sincerely", "love" and "yours" are used to end letters but I don't know how to use these appropriately.

Bye.

Daisuke

Dear Daisuke,

Thank you for sharing your question with the Help Desk.  Yours is an important question and I am sure that many others are wondering the same thing: How to appropriately begin and end a formal letter.  I hope my answer will help you as well as others with a similar need.

Be aware that the culture of email is very  much different from the culture of written correspondence.  There are some similarities, however, and what I write here can be used both in formal paper correspondence as well as formal email correspondence.

There are two parts of the ending of a letter, one is the "Complimentary Closing" and the other is the "signature", and you are primarily interested in the complimentary closing.

First of all,  "bye" is rarely used in written communication; it is mostly used in oral communication.  "Love" is definitely not appropriate for a formal letter. although I did receive an email recently from an associate in the United Kingdom that ended that way.  Perhaps that is acceptable in the UK but if this is the case, I would guess it would only be between people who knew each other for quite a while: Definitely not appropriate for a college application.

Cordially (yours)", "Respectfully (yours)", "(With) best regards" and "(With) kindest regards". The closing that is used will depend on the contents and formality of the letter, the writer's familiarity with the recipient, and the recipient's level of authority. "Yours truly" and "Very truly yours" are often considered more affectionate and omitted from modern business letter style guides [3], but you will find them listed in older style manuals [4], and are often taught to non-native writers as a catch-all phrase, for use when the writer is uncertain how to close the letter. Still, most attorneys close legal correspondence with "Very truly yours."

In UK English, a closing is followed by a comma ("Yours sincerely,") only if the salutation was followed by a comma. That is, if a comma is omitted from the salutation, the letter should be considered written in 'open punctuation', and the comma should therefore be omitted from the closing also ("Yours sincerely").

In the UK, the use of the closing "Yours sincerely," is generally reserved for a recipient whose name is known, substituting "Yours faithfully," where it is not known.


Best,

Jane

Dear Jane,
 
Thank you for adopting my question on your podcast!  It will be a wonderful help for me and surely for many other learners of English.

To answer your question, I'd like to know how to write postal letters in English.  Do you have any rules for how to begin and end formal letters?

If letters sent by email should be addressed and signed differently, I'd like to know that as well.

Respectfully,

Daisuke

Dear Daisuke,

I shall try my best to answer your question, which concerns what we call the "Complimentary Closing" of a letter.

There are many ways of ending letters.  Endings such as "Bye" are not used in writing, in general; they are appropriate to verbal communication and are more informal. 

As far as letter writing is concerned, words such as "Love" are saved for special and close relationships.  You would not want to use this closing in any type of formal application. 

This brings me to make the point that the formalities used in British English are slightly different from those used in American English.   So let's start with American English, since that is what I use and that is what I'm much more familiar with.

Going up the ladder of formality, we use closings such as "Yours," "Yours truly," and "Very truly yours," with each one being progressively more formal; "Sincerely" and "Sincerely Yours" are similarly appropriate and commonly used.  "Kind regards" is now also on the list of acceptable endings for a business letter.  The closing "Respectfully" is also on the list of acceptable ways to end formal business letters; in a letter in which the person to whom you are writing is more of an authority figure, this would definitely be the way to conclude your letter because  it exemplifies the greatest amount of deference

There are endings that are acceptable in British English and used in the United Kingdom but that are not used in American English and in the United States.  Some of those endings and variations on endings that are recommended are "Faithfully yours,", “Very sincerely,” “Very sincerely yours,” “Yours always sincerely” and “Always sincerely yours”.

In addition, our closings are unisex; that is, the ending doesn't change depending on the gender of the person to whom you are writing. 

Be careful to not use common endings for email in formal postal letters.  Email has its own culture.  One common ending for emails in which the writer gives advice, as is the case with this very ESL Help Desk post, is "HTH", which stands for "(I) hope that helps". Many people will end an informal email with "All the best"; others shorten that to "Best".  A more formal email ending commonly used is "Regards" which can be shortened to, in a much more casual context, "Rgds".

And one important thing: In a separate paragraph before your complimentary closing, particularly where you are making a request, always thank the person to whom you are writing with the simple words, "Thank you."

HTH,

Jane
ESL Help Desk

 

We'd now like to thank you for listening in to this week's ESL Help Desk podcast!  Stay tuned as we continue with great podcasts for learners of English.  All the best!

So from the ESL Help Desk, thanks for listening to us this week, and remember to email us your questions about English grammar by sending us a comment through our blog.

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