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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


Hello shery malik.

I would add a little information to that line. For example:

I am writing this email to apply for admission...

I am writing this email to request information on admission requirements...

However, it is quite acceptable to be a little more direct. For example:

I wish to apply for admission to...

I am interested in applying for admission to...


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Very helpful lessons. thank you.

Hello LearnEnglish Team,

Writing to say thank you .Really I'm learning a lot from you .

Yours truly,

Tarikur Rahman

Hello LearnEnglish Team!

I have a simple question. I started to learn Enlish a little time ago and I can make mistakes with tenses or smth.
I saw what you wrote about ending phrases "Regards, wishes" or another.

But I did not can see example with ending phrases such as "Best regards".
It's interesting for me because in Russia in formal e-mail all people write that.
It's a normal writing or not?

Thank you in advance!

Hello Dima,

Welcome! Yes, 'Best regards' is also another very common way of ending emails. In English, it can be used in formal emails, though it's not very formal.

Best regards,
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear LearnEnglish Team,
So emails have less strict Starting-Ending Phrases rules than letters, am I right?
For example, if my addressee was a man, I would write the following in a letter:
Dear Sir - Yours faithfully (only)
Dear Mr Surname - Yours sincerely (only)
Dear Name - Best wishes (Best regards, etc.)
Yours sincerely,

Hello Dina,

I would say that emails are a little more flexible in form than letters, but the difference is quite small and the more formal the topic, the more an email will resemble a traditional letter.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Very helpful lessons... Thank's and God bless you..

Dear Learn English Team,
I wish to thank you immensely for the opportunity give for me to clear myself of the ignorance of poor communication through emails.
Almost inadvertently I have written emails to all and sundry in the informal way. It is just my quest to improve and clean my spoken as well as written English that at the site, I now know that with emails, there are categories just like hand written letters.
The question I wish to ask is, how does one format an email, given that the composed page of most internet service providers has no formatting tools?
While hoping to learn and appreciate you more and more, it remains my fervent wish that many non-native English language users should have access to all the means and forms of English if they are to use it in whatever occasion.
Yours faithfully,
Padre Fred

Hello Padre Fred,

People are generally quite forgiving in such matters when receiving correspondence from non-native English speakers. After all, it is unlikely they could correspond in your language at the same level!

As far as formatting goes, you can only use the tools you have available. The most important aspect is organising the text in a coherent way, which means using clear paragraphs and linking your ideas logically. Aspects of formatting such as font style and size are less important provided you do not choose something odd or hard to read.

I hope those comments are helpful.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team