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.
Cheers,
John

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,
Rgds,
Cheers,
Bye for now,
See you soon,

 

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Language level

Intermediate: B1
Pre-intermediate: A2

Comments

Please help
Is it important to teach students the differences between formal and informal English? And why?
And, is it OK if I teach them some taboo words, not to use them but just to know them so that they recognize them if someone told them a taboo word??

I really need advice about this.
Thanks <3

Hello Walid,

In general, I'd say that you should teach your students something about the difference between formal and informal English, but how much really depends a lot on where you're teaching, how your students are going to use English and many other factors. As for taboo words, again, I'd say it depends on the context, but if you do teach them, I think it's important to emphasise that they should never use them since it would be very easy for them to misuse them.

You might want to visit our sister site TeachingEnglish and consider asking this question there, as it is used by teachers and I'm sure you could get some useful feedback from people in different situations.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Excellent. Thanks

Can I use both Dear and Madam in application letter?
eg
Dear Sir/ Madam

or
Dear Sir

or

Dear Madam

Hello thelthel,

Yes, 'Dear Sir', 'Dear Madam' and 'Dear Sir or Madam' are all used in application letters. If you know the person's name, though, I'd encourage you to use it, for example, 'Dear Mrs Smith'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

How to address someone i didn't know his name?

Hello Raunas,

For formal emails 'Dear Sir or Madam' is standard. For informal emails a simple 'Hi' or 'Hello' would be fine.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

it is very useful,thank you.

Dear Sir/Mdm,

I have a clarification about how to start and end an email. I attended a British Council grammar class recently. I learnt that we should not put a comma after "Hi Sam" or "Best regards". As this is different from what is listed on this page, I would like to clarify on what is the proper usage please. Should it be "Hi Sam" or "Hi Sam,"? Likewise, should it be "Best regards" or "Best regards,"? I would appreciate your advice on this. Thank you in advance! :)

Hello deargenia,

When I write an email (and I write many of them!) I always use a comma after the greeting and valediction - in fact, you can see these in this message, which follows similar conventions.

I would not describe this as a rule, however, but rather as a convention which may vary in different contexts. For example, I am from the UK and I follow the conventions of the UK. There may be different conventions in the US.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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