Grammar Grappler #24: Why Sign it “Sincerely”?

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a guideline on how to capitalize complimentary closes for business letters and emails. When your complimentary close is more than one word, you don’t capitalize the second word. For instance:

Sincerely yours,



Thank you,


However, I closed that blog post with the advice to stop signing professional correspondence with complimentary closes such as:

Best wishes,

Warm regards,

Yours truly,

Sincerely yours,

Rather, I urged readers to stick with one word: Sincerely. Several readers questioned this, so the explanation is below.

You can’t go wrong with Sincerely.

Centuries ago, some sculptors and artisans who chiseled works of art or even water-carrying vessels from blocks of stone engaged in a shady practice. If they accidentally cracked the stone, rather than starting over, they would pour hot melted wax into the crack or fissure, allow it to harden, and then continue to chisel. With time, the wax would deteriorate, so the people who purchased the works of art would end up with faulty workmanship or a worthless leaky vase. This became so commonplace that ethical artisans who wanted people to know their works of art were intact began indicating it by turning the sculpture upside down and engraving the words “Sine cera” and their initials at the base.

What does “Sine cera” mean?

It means “without wax.”

So today, when you sign a letter “Sincerely, Bob” what you are literally saying is “Without wax, Bob,” but what you are figuratively saying is that you can sign your name to this document in good faith. There’s no funny business going on. There’s no crack in this correspondence. It is without flaw or questionable content.

Without wax,



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