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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



First of all, thanks for this wonderful and, above all, useful website!

I'd like to know whether we should let teenage students end an informal email (which will supposedly be read by another teenager) in the Cambridge English: First exam with expressions such as:

Catch you/ya later,
See ya,

Or are they too informal to be used in an exam?



Hello Srdan,

I'd recommend you ask Cambridge about this as they are of course the ones who publish and mark the First exam. My sense is that these could be appropriate in an informal email, but I am not a Cambridge examiner so I would recommend you check with someone from the institution for a definitive answer.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Could somebody tell me what 'CC' is?

Hello ney747,

'cc' means 'carbon copy', which just means 'copy' here. For example, if your boss tells you to email the president and to cc: her (your boss), then you would send your email to the president and send a copy to your boss.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, may i know the difference of complained and has complained? Thanks

Hello luveee13,

These are two different verb forms.

'Complained' is an example of the past simple form, used to describe completed (finished) events or states in the past. You can read more about how to talk about the past here.

'Has complained' (or 'have complained') is an example of the present perfect form, used to describe events or states in the past which are not finished or have some influence on the present. You can read more about perfect forms here and the present perfect here.

The exact different will depend on the context. However, generally speaking, 'I have complained' tells us that the complaint is still active in some way - probably because you are expecting or waiting for an answer. 'I complained' suggests that the process is complete - either you have an answer or you do not expect anything else to happen in the matter.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team


I would like to know another ways to begin a email for an academic purpose.

Best wishes,

Hello Mari,

Could you please describe the kind of message you want to write in more detail? Is it from a professor to a colleague? From a graduate student to an unknown professor at another university? Is it to request help or to congratulate them on an article? If you could describe the message you have in mind in more detail, we can give you a much more specific answer.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Finally, I'm here. Hope I will get a lot of useful information. So lovely!
Thank you,

Hi there. Finally I have found a course about writing emails! Thank you The LearnEnglish Team for this. Much appreciated! This is very important to me as I am writing emails at my work every day.
My emails looks different from those I am receiving. And I don't know what should I change to take my emails on a higher level. I hope this course will help me improve my email writing skills.
Wording? Rules? Structure? Which of these are the key for professional email? How to find out what I do wrong? Can I send an example to The LearnEnglish Team so you can point it out my mistakes?
This is very VERY importan part of my job. Please help me.