Unit 4: Starting and finishing emails

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,

Task 1

Task 2

Task 3

Task 4

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Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 11/09/2018 - 06:22

In reply to by anie1


Hello anie2,

1. We would use 'email' and not 'letter' here.

2. The sentence is not incorrect in terms of the language but the standard way to say this would be 'I hope you are well'.



The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user saadat.farzaneg

Submitted by saadat.farzaneg on Wed, 11/07/2018 - 18:45

Hello. I wrote a formal email and I started it with "Dear Prof. ...." and finished it with "Yours Sincerely,". He replied to me. Now I want to send him a Thank You email. Do I have to start with "Dear Prof. ..." again and finish with something such as "Yours Sincerely." again. or It is enough that I write my thank you massage.

Hello saadat.f,

I would say that beginning with "Dear Professor...' is the safest option here. It really depends upon your relationship, however, and that is something I cannot judge.

Remember that the word is 'message', not 'massage'. A massage is something that can help you if you have problems with your back, for example, but probably not something you get from your professor!



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter M, Thank you for your reply to my comment, and also thank you for correcting me. I was wrong about writing the word "message".

Submitted by Babak010 on Fri, 29/06/2018 - 10:24

Dear mr/mrs I hope you are doing well. I want to know when i writing a email or later can i write sentences that are mix (formal and informal) or have to use one of these to write a email or later? for example write a email to colleague or master that i know them very well but they are up level than me. meanwhile i want to say you thank you for your site, nice job. Regards Babak

Hi Babak,

I'm afraid it's difficult for me to give you a definitive answer to this question, as it really depends on the kind of relationship you have with your colleague. In some cultures, an informal message from a subordinate to someone above them in the hierarchy is acceptable, but in others it is not. You might want to consider how you would do it if you were writing in Farsi and then do the same in English -- assuming that your colleague is also from Iran. Does that make sense? I'd also say that, in general, it's better to be too formal than it is to be too informal.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by hyuker on Mon, 28/05/2018 - 12:48

One of my weakest skills is writing. This was my first writing exercise. I really like this. This is such a great exercise proving not only writing practices also great sample email that I can use as a reference. I really appreciate any person running this website.

Submitted by pedimitris on Mon, 16/04/2018 - 14:04

Good Exercise!!!

Submitted by Maya_Maya on Sat, 14/04/2018 - 00:21

Hello, Kirk. How are you doing? My question is about the comma between greetings and people's names. For example, 'Good morning Tim' or 'Hi Tim'. Has the vocative comma disappeared from English? Thank you. Maya

Hello Maya_Maya,

I think the vocative comma is used less consistently than in the past but most style guides still include it. A lot depends on the context. In formal writing, the comma should certainly be used. In informal writing, it is often omitted. In certain media, such as online interaction, punctuation is less consistently used.

You can find a discussion of the topic here.



The LearnEnglish Team