How to start and end a letter or email: Salutation and Valediction

Here’s a topic for a moment: formal and informal greetings in an email, or letter, any form of written communication.

For several years I would not use any form of sign-out at the end of an email or message, except in email I would include


Now it seems people don’t do that, they leave it to the automatic insertion of a signature.  But then, it cuts out the option of choosing the emotional tone of the close-out.  Granted, I ignored that by the “-Tom” ending in so many messages.  But I’m more aware of it now.

Today I sent a fax, a task I do less than 5 times a year.  Thinking about the proper use of words to convey meaning, while avoiding the dramatic and excess bubbly emotion, I cut it down to:

From Tom ****

My address has changed as of May 2011:


52-1000 Somewhere St
Somewhereville, SW  S0M 3W4


20-1000 Somewhere St
Somewhereville, SW  S0M 3W4

Tom *****

I don’t need my name at the bottom, if it’s a short note to announce my change of address.  But I want to close it off, very neatly and cleanly.  Yet, having the name appear by itself seemed an unnecessary duplication of the “From Tom Pace” line at the top.  So I opted for a sign-out greeting.

A sign-out greeting, is called a valediction.  It is the counterpart to a salutation, examples such as “Dear NAME,” or “Attention NAME” or “To Whom it May Concern”.

My emails sometimes include valedictions, and I use valedictions in verbal communication… The one I have used most frequently in written messages came from my adoption of the verbal “take care”.  But several other places and people I’ve seen using “Regards” and “Best regards”.  So I tried it out, and it feels clean but also a bit distant.  So, in the last couple years, whenever I use a valediction in written messages, it will be one I come up with at the moment, to match the tone of the message or the tone of the saluation.

In this above example, I thought about “Yours truly”, “Sincerely”, “Regards”, “Best regards”.

Yours truly is excellent, but feels much older, and it’s mostly a simplification of “Truly, I am yours” or other similar expressions.

So here’s the end result: I chose Sincerely.  It is not a match of the salutation “Attention NAME”  as much as it matches the opening sentence announcement “My address has changed…”.

Sources I referred to for the writing of the valediction are:

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One Response to How to start and end a letter or email: Salutation and Valediction

  1. Elusivepeanut says:

    Thank you, this was a very interesting read. I appreciate your line of thought towards your conclusion. Your clarity moved towards it as well. May we all move forwards toward telepathy. :)

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