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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 Raunas,

For formal emails 'Dear Sir or Madam' is standard. For informal emails a simple 'Hi' or 'Hello' would be fine.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

it is very useful,thank you.

Dear Sir/Mdm,

I have a clarification about how to start and end an email. I attended a British Council grammar class recently. I learnt that we should not put a comma after "Hi Sam" or "Best regards". As this is different from what is listed on this page, I would like to clarify on what is the proper usage please. Should it be "Hi Sam" or "Hi Sam,"? Likewise, should it be "Best regards" or "Best regards,"? I would appreciate your advice on this. Thank you in advance! :)

Hello deargenia,

When I write an email (and I write many of them!) I always use a comma after the greeting and valediction - in fact, you can see these in this message, which follows similar conventions.

I would not describe this as a rule, however, but rather as a convention which may vary in different contexts. For example, I am from the UK and I follow the conventions of the UK. There may be different conventions in the US.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Thank a lot ,
I feel happy.

dear sir/maam
whats the "Grade" after the end of each unit symbolise?
I mean its our grade or its just a standard grade

Hello Ashish Ghosal,

Do you mean the level tags ('A2' and 'B1') at the end? These are indications of the level using the Common European Framework of Reference. The A level is essentially beginner level and B is intermediate. Within each level there are two other levels (1 and 2).

If you meant something else, please clarify - we'll help you as best we can.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks so much and it is very useful.


I am confused with how should I start my email when I am writing this to an institution for admission?. I have to start with in formal way. do you think this statement is right?
" I am writing this email for admission etc." thank you