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


Thanks a lot Mr Peter. I think I'll simply address it to the chairperson of the selection team and I'll salute as Dear Sir or Madam.
What do you think Sir?

Hello Francis,

I think 'Dear Sir/Madam' will be fine'. Good luck!


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you so much!

Dear Sir or Madam,
I have completed the tasks and scored 100%. That's very helpful.

With many thanks and best wishes,

Dear Mr or Madam,
Thank you so much for studying at BC. I look forward to your reply.
Best Wishes,
Shinn Lai May

Could you, please, explain, if 'hello' and 'hi' are informal greetings, then why are they used by for example online shop support teams when they answer to me? I suppose they should address to me formally... When I write a request or a claim I usually start with 'Dear Sir/Madame', and they just write: 'Hello, Mrs...' or 'Hi,...' . Maybe I'm toooooo formal?)))

Hello editari,

Online interactions tend to be more informal than similar offline situations and since 'Hello Mr ...' is polite but not very formal, that's probably why you see it in such a context. Sometimes people use more familiar forms (such as 'hello' or 'hi') to try to establish a sort of intimacy; this is more and more common, though not everyone likes it, so I understand your surprise. I expect that most of these online support staff are taught to use certain forms and so unless you feel it's offensive in some way I'd recommend just rolling with it.

I'd say it's ok for you to use 'Dear Sir/Madam' until you know the other person's name. At that point, you could still retain some degree of formality (e.g. using 'Dear Ms XYZ' as opposed to 'Hello ABC') and, in fact, using more formal terms of address would be a good and appropriate way of showing that you prefer that kind of interaction over the familiar one they are attempting.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team


very useful exercise.

You have a bug to fix for answers

it helps us so much .......... thank you