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.
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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Hello englishman332,

Both phrases are fine. 'I look forward to hearing from you soon' is more formal but it is quite normal.

There are variants for other situations:

I look forward to hearing from / seeing / speaking to / meeting / talking to you.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Menglan on Thu, 22/11/2018 - 06:23

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I am writing to ...

Submitted by Hosam Mohamed on Sun, 28/10/2018 - 21:16

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sorry, is it: "Here are some phrase.." or "Here are some phrases.."? (under title "Phrases for starting and finishing")

Hello attar_adv,

The sentence should read 'Here are some phrases...'

Thank you for spotting this mistake! We always proofread our material to check for errors and typos, but some inevitably creep through and it is very helpful when observant people spot them for us.

 

Thanks again,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by anie1 on Mon, 10/09/2018 - 22:07

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Hello, I would like to ask if the following is correct: If we want to forward an email or an email to someone to a third person can we say. I forward to you the email? Is it correct to use the word forward(here is a verb) and after forward we write to you? Thank you in advance

Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 12/09/2018 - 06:28

In reply to by anie1

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Hello anie2,

You can use 'forward' as a verb but you need to use 'will' here as you are making an offer or a promise:

I'll forward it to you.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by anie1 on Sun, 09/09/2018 - 12:52

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Hello, I would like to ask if the following are correct; If we write a letter or email. 1. If we want to answer an email that someone has sent to us, we say; thank you for your email or thank you for your letter? 2. Is it correct to use the following expression in an email: Hello, how are you? I hope you are happy and healthy. The sentence I hope you are happy and healthy is it correct to use? Thank you in advance

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

In reply to by anie1

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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'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Saadat.F on Wed, 11/07/2018 - 18:45

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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!

 

Peter

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

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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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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

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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

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Good Exercise!!!

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

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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.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by EngJason on Wed, 28/03/2018 - 10:07

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Dear Sir / Madam, Thanks for your team making these online courses to us. It is useful for me to learn English reading,listening and writing. I just begin learning English on this site.Hope we all here can improve our English. Best regards, Jason

Submitted by XuMinHa on Wed, 14/03/2018 - 16:30

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Dear sir In the task 1, Hairuddin wrote : Morning everyone, Just thought you might be interested to know that... I searched the phrase "Just thought" expresses the idea of deciding quickly and without thinking too carefully about something. And I found another phrase " Just a thought". What's the difference between "Just thought" and " Just a thought"? This phrase "Just a thought" like a nouns and "just thought" like adverblals so after this phrase + clauses, is it right? Please explain these two phrases difference. Thanks

Hello XuMinHa,

'Just thought' is 'I just thought' with the subject left out, which is common in informal speaking. People often use 'I just thought' to soften what they say -- see this page for an explanation of this and other uses of 'just'. The idea is that we don't want to assume the other person will be interested in what we say, so we use 'just' to make our suggestion seem less important. That is how Hairuddin used 'just' in the sentence you mention.

'Just a thought' is 'It's just a thought'. Here, too, 'just' is used to soften and the idea is similar: I'm not sure I'm right, but this is an idea I have.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Bahi on Wed, 31/01/2018 - 17:49

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Dear Sir, I am very well and i hope you too. Thank you for the email and i have all pleasure to discuss any job opportinity over the phone. I will be free tomorrow at 12h 00 or just give me the time that is right for you and i will be waiting for your call. This is my mobile phone 0......... Please don't hesitate to contact me over the phone or by email. Best regards.

Submitted by light cloud on Wed, 06/12/2017 - 14:54

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Hi teacher, I want to write a paragraph, then you could check my mistakes. Thanks, Cloud

Hello light cloud,

If there's a specific part of a sentence that you want to ask us about, freel free to ask us, but I'm afraid we don't offer the service of correcting our users' writing. 

If you're interested in improving your writing, you might want to consider a British Council class in Vietnam, where I'm sure your teacher could help you in this way.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Srdan on Wed, 19/07/2017 - 16:02

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Hi, 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, Later(s), Or are they too informal to be used in an exam? Thanks. Srdan

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 20/07/2017 - 02:34

In reply to by Srdan

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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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ney747 on Sun, 28/05/2017 - 17:55

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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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by luveee13 on Wed, 17/05/2017 - 05:08

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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,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mari13 on Mon, 15/05/2017 - 17:32

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Hi, I would like to know another ways to begin a email for an academic purpose. Best wishes, Mari.

Submitted by Kirk on Tue, 16/05/2017 - 07:04

In reply to by Mari13

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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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Yulduz M on Mon, 17/04/2017 - 18:01

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

Submitted by Pawel on Wed, 29/03/2017 - 23:30

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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. Thx Pawel

Hello Pawel,

We're glad that you've found something useful here. I'm afraid we don't provide the service of correcting users' texts, but if you have a specific question about a specific sentence from time to time, feel free to ask us.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Walid baidas on Sat, 25/03/2017 - 00:01

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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

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

Submitted by thelthel on Wed, 08/03/2017 - 09:47

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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