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Unit 4: Starting and finishing emails

How should you begin and finish an email message to someone you don't know? Find out here!

Starting and finishing emails

Here are some important points to consider when starting and finishing an email.

Formal or informal?

We write a formal email when we want to be polite, or when we do not know the reader very well. A lot of work emails are formal. We write informal emails when we want to be friendly, or when we know the reader well. A lot of social emails are informal. Here are some examples of formal and informal messages:

Formal Informal
An email to a customer 
A job application
An email to your manager
A complaint to a shop
An email from one company to another company

A birthday greeting to a colleague
An email to a colleague who is also a good friend
A social invitation to a friend at your workplace
An email with a link to a funny YouTube clip
A message to a friend on a social networking site

Before you start writing an email, decide if you want to write a formal email or an informal one.

Layout and punctuation

Starting an email: We normally write a comma after the opening phrase. We start a new line after the name of the person we’re writing to.

Finishing an email: We normally write a comma after the closing phrase. We start a new line to write our name at the end.

Formal Informal

Dear Mr Piper,
I am writing to thank you for all your help.
I look forward to seeing you next week.
With best wishes,
John Smith

Hi Tim,
Many thanks for your help.
See you next week.

Phrases for starting and finishing

Here are some phrases which we use for starting and finishing emails. We use these in formal and informal emails:

Starting phrases Dear Tim,
Good morning Tim,
Ending phrases Regards,
With best wishes,
With many thanks and best wishes,

You also need to know which phrases to use only in a formal email or an informal one:

  Formal Informal
Starting phrases Dear Mr Piper,
Dear Sir or Madam,
Hi Tim,
Hi there Tim,
Morning/Afternoon/Evening Tim,
Hello again Tim,
Ending phrases Yours sincerely,
Yours faithfully,
Yours truly,
Bye for now,
See you soon,



Language level

Intermediate: B1
Pre-intermediate: A2


It is okay if I state what is all about in the subject and use dear recipient

Hello Thato,

Yes, the subject line usually summarises what the message is about. 'Dear recipient' is not a standard salutation in British or American English, though it is at least clear. In general, I'd recommend you use the forms indicated on this page unless 'Dear recipient'.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Very helpful lesson for me

Hello, is it okay if I use "Dear Recipient" maybe if I don't know who am writing to?

Hello iyandabdulmujeeb,

I wouldn't recommend you use 'Dear Recipient', at least in standard British or American English. 'Dear Sir or Madam' is the most common form address in this case.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team


cool lesson

very helpful lesson for me. thanks Learn English team.

Dear The LearnEnglish Team,
Would you tell me if "Sincerely yours", "Sincerely" and "Yours very sincerely" are formal?

Hello Nguyenthuylam,

Yes, those are quite formal ways to end a letter. We use them when we know the name of the person to whom we are writing, and replace 'sincerely' with 'faithfully' if we do not. Less formal ways to end a letter are 'Best regards' or 'Regards', which are quite common in modern English business correspondence.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir,
Kindly guide me on how to write the salutation for a letter to a panel composed of men and women. Is 'Dear Sirs and Madams' correct, or what could be the most appropriate form?

Also, can the subject of the letter come directly after the salutation for an online application system?