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.
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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Submitted by CPC on Sun, 14/04/2024 - 12:53

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Dear Teacher,

Thank you for your reply to my question. I have more questions about emails. 

Do we always start a formal email with "I hope this email finds you well" or similar greetings? Or do we go straight to the point by saying "I am writing to..."? Does it sound rude and odd if I just go straight to the point? 

In addition, if I would like to request some documents from the recipient, do I sound rude by saying "please send me xxx."

Many thanks for your kind help.

Best regards,

CPC

Hello CPC,

In answer to your questions:

Do we always start a formal email with "I hope this email finds you well" or similar greetings? Or do we go straight to the point by saying "I am writing to..."? Does it sound rude and odd if I just go straight to the point?

 It's perfectly fine to jump right in like this. I think if you do not know the person you're writing to then introducing yourself first is polite (Dear Sir/Madam, My name is... and I am a... I am writing to...)

In addition, if I would like to request some documents from the recipient, do I sound rude by saying "please send me xxx."

I think that does sound a little too direct. Using a polite requesting phrase would be better. For example:

I would appreciate it if you could send me...

I would be very grateful if you could send me...

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by CPC on Fri, 12/04/2024 - 13:50

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Dear teachers,

For semi-formal emails, e.g. emails to a landlord or a neighbour, do I use contractions? How about the sign-off? Do I use the my full name or just my first name will do?

One more thing about email, instead or Dear Sir/Madam, what else can I use? The department name? The title/position/job duty of the person receiving the email? For example, when I am writing to British Council, can I say "Dear Councillor"? When I am writing to customer service, can I say "Dear Customer Service Team"?

Many thanks,

CPC

Hello CPC,

I'm afraid there's no simple answer to your first question. If you're not sure how formal or informal to be, in general it's better to be more formal in most situations, as it generally implies more respect. What's appropriate also varies a lot according to the country or region you are in. If I were writing to neighbours I've known for a long time or a landlord that I've met, I would probably use contractions and then sign with my full name, or perhaps just my given name plus the first letter of my surname.

As for your second question, yes, you can use a department name ('Dear Customer Service' or 'Dear Customer Service Team') or job position ('Dear Mayor') as well. I wouldn't say 'Dear Councilor' when writing to the British Council because we're not really councilors, but that could be appropriate when writing to someone in your city's government, for example.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by wTT on Fri, 09/02/2024 - 07:32

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Thank you ! I made one mistake.

Submitted by davtho on Wed, 26/07/2023 - 13:07

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Dear Teachers,

I would like to ask for some clarification on the vocative comma. I read in other websites (https://www.grammarly.com/blog/comma-rules-for-business-emails/) that we should put a comma between the name of the person and the salutation. Is that correct? In the examples given here there's no comma, not even in the formal version.
Also, is the option of the colon at the end of very professional emails used or a simple comma is preferred?
Thank you in advance for your time and answers.
Best regards,
David

Hello David,

This is a question of style -- in other words, it depends on who you ask.

As far as I know, grammarly uses a dataset based largely on American English. As far as I know, the vocative comma is always used in American English -- I grew up there and as you may have noticed, I still use the comma.

While there may be some British style guides that also call for the vocative comma, the one that we use at the British Council does not, and as far as I can tell, most British English speakers do not use it. If you do an internet search for 'british style guides', you should find several options.

I'm afraid I don't really know the answer to your question about colons. In any case, it will depend on whatever style you decide to use!

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by howtosay_ on Sun, 16/07/2023 - 23:07

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Hello, dear teachers and team!

Could you please help me with the following:

Which option is correct:

1. Here is the list: (and then I add the list)

2. Here the list is: (and then I add the list)

Thank you very much indeed for your precious help and I'm very grateful for the answer to this comment beforehand!

Hello howtosay_,

Both of those are fine, but most of the time we say 'here is ...' when presenting something in the manner you describe. So 1 is generally the best option, though 2 could be fine in particular situations.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by jyoti Chaudhary on Wed, 25/05/2022 - 11:22

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I learn many things in this video and I will apply them when I send an email to anyone.