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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


A clear example of building an email template

february 16Th 2018

Dear sir

In reference to your complaint received on 7th of July where you communicate the problem with your...

We are very grateful to you for letting us know these details. So that, we can identity those aspects to be improved. We also apologise for the inconvenience you have suffered

We can either refund your Money or exchange it for another one ( the faulty ...)

Someone from our company will be contacting you within three Days to let you know we plan to resolve this issue, and hopefully regain your confidence in our company.

On behalf of our company My apologies for any inconvenience caused

Yours sincerely


Customer service director

With regards to ending a formal email where you do not know the name of the person you're writing to, is "Yours faithfully" the only option? I thought it was, but my schooling was many moons ago. Someone pointed out that this is an archaic form, and "Yours sincerely" or "With kind regards" are possible too.

Is there a definitive guide I can consult on this? I am a teacher and would hate to give my students wrong information.

Hello Helen BP,

The traditional rule - my time in school was a few decades ago as well - was as you suggest: Yours sincerely  (or just Sincerely) if we know the name; Yours faithfully (or just Faithfully) if we do not. However, many other forms are used today, such as Best Regards and Regards, which can be used in either case.


Personally, I would not switch Sincerely and Faithfully around if for no other reason than the fact that the other person may interpret it as ignorance on my part if they are of a traditionalist bent. Why risk creating a bad impression for no gain?



The LearnEnglish Team

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