Ending emails and letters can be quite challenging for some because choosing the best sign-off message is a tricky task.
One of the most commonly confused sign-off or closing remarks in English is “yours truly.” “Yours truly” is quite special because it can be interpreted either as too formal or too casual.
To know more about “yours truly,” let us begin with a short definition of its meaning.
What does the expression “yours truly” mean?
“Yours Truly” is a formal sign-off message in business correspondence. It communicates high regard or courtesy like “yours sincerely,” yours faithfully,” and “yours respectfully.” In casual language use, though, “yours truly” is similar to the emphatic use of the pronouns “I,” “me,” or “myself.”
“Yours truly” in business correspondence
Business correspondence entails the use of positive greetings like “hope is well with you” as an introductory statement in letters and emails.
Meanwhile, assistance prompts like “please let me know if you have any questions” are used to end the body of such texts.
On top of that, greeting and closing remarks are also two important parts found in emails and letters, and they are almost always inseparable in the formal writing context.
These two parts are necessary for making, most, if not all business correspondence happen because they mark the beginning and end of the message.
Salutations and greetings are, therefore, important in guiding the reader as to when to start and stop reading the message delivered by the sender.
Not missing these key elements reflects the professionalism of the writer, which is nothing less than crucial in maintaining healthy business relationships.
We surely get to see the sign-off remark “yours truly” all the time. But, is there anything special about it that we are unaware of?
Well, language usage is mainly guided by context. So, there is a need to know when it is appropriate to use “yours truly” and when it should be avoided.
The appropriate use of “yours truly”
Farewells or goodbyes are important in professional communication because they mark the end of the language exchange.
Knowing when exactly a message ends allows us to start thinking of ways on how we should properly respond to the sender of the message.
Closing formal letters and emails in professional communication entails using sign-off messages like “yours truly,” which shares more or less the same tone as “yours sincerely.”
“Yours truly” is something that we use when the message needs a high degree of politeness or, more precisely, even a more traditional undertone.
The “traditional” connotation of “yours truly” is based on the idea that it was most popularly used during the late nineteenth century, according to Google’s Ngram Viewer tool.
Hence, “yours truly” is best reserved for writing sensitive topics that are directed to authority figures, as well as to those who are perceived to be leaning more toward a conservative stance.
Yours truly” may also be particularly used when the receiver of the message is unknown to the sender, such as those that start with a “To Whom It May Concern” salutation.
For that matter, the use of “yours truly” also shares the same polite connotation as the usage of “V/r” in letters in the military community.
“V/r” stands for “very respectfully” and is particularly used by military personnel when communicating with both similar and higher-ranking officials.
This suggests that “yours truly” does not share the same degree of formality as “cheers,” “take care,” and “best,” as these are better used for relatively closer people like similar-ranking colleagues.
All the more, “yours truly” is even way more formal than “love,” “hugs,” “xoxo,” which are casual expressions that are reserved for people sharing intimate relationships.
To contextualize further, “yours truly” can be used when communicating rather important concerns to superiors, like in the next example:
Dear Mr. Miller,
Please be advised that your expense report on your business trip to Bogotá last month has already been successfully reviewed and recorded by the accounting department. Per Ms. Williams, nothing needs to be reconciled or clarified.
Thank you for your attention on this matter.
Sometimes, though, people may falsely think that “yours truly” bears a highly emotional rather than professional value, thereby leading to the avoidance of the expression in business correspondence.
However, this is not the case in reality. “Yours truly,” when applied in business communication, maintains a professional and polite connotation in general.
This formal connotation may only be replaced with a warm, personal tone when “yours truly” is intentionally used for humorous purposes in informal contexts.
That said, the polite and formal connotation of “yours truly” could only get misinterpreted when the message receiver would think that it bears some emotional attachment when, in fact, it doesn’t.
This is driven by the informal usage of “yours truly” as a euphemism for “I,” “me” or “myself” in modern times for stylistic and idiomatic purposes.
In a nutshell, “yours truly” can either be too formal or too casual depending on the overall context in which the expression is used.
The inappropriate use of “yours truly”
To recall a vital point mentioned earlier, this post maintains the idea that “yours truly” is a formal rather than a casual expression if used in business communication.
So, in this article, the inappropriate use of “yours truly” is defined by its unsuitability in terms of the message’s purpose as well as the sender’s relationship with the receiver.
This means that the highly formalistic and polite tone of “yours truly” is generally deemed inappropriate when dealing with trivial matters with close-knit message receivers.
For example, your long-term colleague of a similar rank may find your random usage of “yours truly” awkward if and when you are both used to more casual sign-off messages.
Let’s say that you and your close colleague are generally keen on using casual sign-offs like “take care,” “cheers,” “thanks,” “ciao,” and even “hugs.”
Sometimes, both of you might just even leave the sign-off remark out because you both want to save time writing or that you think it is irrelevant.
In a case like this, no offense will be taken by both parties when choosing casual sign-offs because of the level of closeness shared by the two people.
However, when this messaging pattern suddenly gets interrupted by the random use of “yours truly,” questions might arise in the mind of the receiver.
This irregularity in communication may even worsen when the message is extremely short, trivial, contextually understandable, and even personal rather than business-like.
Therefore, this indiscriminate use of “yours truly” may only be inappropriate if and when the receiver typically expects the sender to make use of a casual tone in their communication.
This is also true especially if the content of the message is something outside of the business context, like personal activity plans.
Considering the explained circumstance above, the example email below shows an inappropriate, albeit possible, use of the sign-off expression “yours truly.”
I’ll only go to this weekend’s fundraising event if you pick me up and take me home after. Haha.
Considering the rather personal, even humorous, content of the email above, a more personal sign-off message like “always,” “later,” “see you,” or “thank youuu” would be more fitting.
In similar contexts as the given example, sign-off remarks like “warmest regards” or “best wishes” may also be alternatively used for emails that contain more business-like instead of personal content.
Bear in mind that work-related email messages are generally formal and are likely monitored. Thus, exchanging personal messages via email is not encouraged.
Unless you’re using your personal email account in sending a message as in the last example, you have to maintain professionalism in both tone and content all the time.
The difference between “yours truly” and “truly yours”
“Yours truly” is relatively more frequently used than “truly yours” in all contexts. So, when in doubt, the default choice is “yours truly” rather than the latter.
In terms of tonality and formality level, “yours truly” is the same as “yours sincerely,” “yours faithfully,” or “yours genuinely.”
Interestingly, “truly yours” was way more commonly used than “yours truly” during the first half of the twentieth century.
However, the usage of “truly yours” has been consistently declining since then, while the usage of “yours truly” has remained stable through time.
Both American and British English variants make use of “yours truly” and “truly yours” in writing formal letters and emails.
In British English, though, “yours truly” is more likely as a pronoun used for self-referencing. In American English, however, it is used both as a sign-off message and a pronoun.
Meanwhile, “truly yours” is either used as it is or preceded by another adverb that denotes degree such as “very.” The resulting phrase, in this case, is “very truly yours.”
Having said that, “very truly yours” is more grammatically correct than “very yours truly.” But, using either “yours truly” or “truly yours” alone is possible.
Alternatives to “yours truly”
Based on the main stance in this article that “yours truly” is a formal business expression, here are some formal alternatives to “yours truly” that bear a similar polite tone.
These alternatives can be used when reaching out for the first time, especially to unknown and distant rather than familiar and close people.
“Yours sincerely” can be used when reaching out to unknown people for special concerns or those we treat with high regard and courtesy.
With the high formality level of this sign-off message, you can avoid offending someone you do not know very well or respect a lot.
You may use “yours sincerely,” for example, in writing a letter of recommendation reminder to your college professor or previous boss.
Dear Dr. Rugger,
I hope all is well with you today. I am writing to remind you about the recommendation letter we discussed via email last month. I am applying for the research assistant position at XY University, and the deadline for my submission of requirements is two weeks later.
Kindly let me know if you need any further pieces of information to help you in writing the letter, and I will provide them as soon as I can.
In British English conventions, “yours faithfully” is a formalistic closing remark used when reaching out to a person who is a complete stranger that meanwhile entails utmost respect.
Even slightly more formal than “yours truly,” “yours faithfully” is suitable when writing a thank you letter for a donation for an anonymous donor.
Dear Sir or Madam,
On behalf of Davenport’s Center for the Blind, I am truly grateful for your generous donation of $500 to our humble organization. Through donations like yours, we are able to fund our seeing eye dog program for our beneficiaries. This program ensures that our visually impaired members are well taken care of when they go about their daily routines.
If I had only known your name, I would have been able to thank you more personally. But, I completely understand and respect your need for anonymity, as other donors do.
Thank you very much, once again, for your generosity.
Meanwhile, “yours respectfully” is used when some degree of familiarity with the receiver exists, but that person is also perceived to have a relatively higher status.
This can be used, for example, when writing a thank-you reply for an introduction email to a potential employer by a business acquaintance.
In this case, the person doing the introduction is only known to the writer for a short amount of time, hence the need for formalities.
Dear Mr. Simon Elrod,
I am writing to personally thank you for introducing me to Ms. Ava Peters. I and Ms. Peters have already exchanged a few emails about the basics of the potential design renovation project for their office, and we are meeting next week for a more detailed discussion. Again, I sincerely appreciate the introduction that you did, Mr. Elrod.
Using “yours truly” for informal and humorous purposes
As introduced earlier, the pronoun “yours truly” is also meanwhile used to convey intentional humour in communication.
It can be used to gently yet emphatically brag about the self.
Or, it can also be used to mock or pull the self down for the sake of humor.
Language is dynamic and it does evolve through time. We can observe this event in how we use “yours truly” in contexts that are poles apart.
This implies that the current conventions as to how “yours truly” can be used may naturally change either in the near or far future.
Frequently Asked Questions on “Yours Truly”
Why does “yours truly” mean “me”?
“Yours truly” is a euphemism for “me” because, by using “yours,” the expression avoids self-promotion or at least indirectly does it. “Yours” suggests the meaning “the one that belongs to your,” while “truly” means “genuinely” or “sincerely.”
Is it “your’s truly” or “yours truly”?
The correct sign-off message for emails and letters, as well as a pronoun like “me” or “myself,” is “yours truly” or the one without the apostrophe before the letter “-s.” “Yours” is already a pronoun in its possessive form, so it is grammatically incorrect to use it in the possessive noun format.
Where does the comma go in “yours truly”?
The comma goes after the second word “truly” when using “yours truly” as a sign-off message for emails and letters.
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.