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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 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.

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,
The LearnEnglish Team

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 <3

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,
The LearnEnglish Team

Excellent. Thanks

Can I use both Dear and Madam in application letter?
Dear Sir/ Madam

Dear Sir


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,
The LearnEnglish Team