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

Average: 3.8 (43 votes)

Submitted by Asaph on Tue, 02/04/2019 - 01:25

I find I am thrown off by what should be correct punctuation. Perhaps this is dealt with. I haven't discovered it. Also, I wonder if there is a section that helps above the intermediate levels. And this is confusing to know when using 'I or me', 'who or whom' and that type of problem.
Hello Asaph, Punctuation can be confusing, can't it? We don't have pages devoted to this topic, but we make sure our texts are appropriately punctuated, so you can see good examples as you read and if you have any questions about the punctuation then you can always ask quoting the appropriate section. ~ Peter The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Amanda Cross on Thu, 21/02/2019 - 18:57

I can say that it is more common to start an email with "dear" and after you get a response move to a simpler "hi" greeting. Also, when you write an email some information/ numbers/ refer to polls then you should also try to cite where you took it from ( https://-----------------) since it is a good practice if you are headed towards academia.

Hello Amanda

These are very useful ideas -- thanks for sharing them here!

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by lilimoon on Sun, 10/02/2019 - 15:47

I really enjoy the samples and exercises!

Submitted by jmajo on Mon, 04/02/2019 - 15:49

Hi there, I would like to know if the ending phrase: "Kind Regards," it is formal or informal. Thanks!
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Mon, 04/02/2019 - 16:54

In reply to by jmajo


Hello jmajo

'Kind regards' (notice the second word is not capitalised) is neutral in register, that is, neither formal nor informal. In many business contexts in the UK, it would be an acceptable way to end an email, unless the situation called for a very formal style.

It would sound strange if you used it with friends or family, but would be appropriate to use when writing to someone you don't know or don't know well.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team