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It might seem intimidating if you have to write an email to someone you don’t know that well–but don’t worry! Let's walk through the basics of formal email writing so you can craft a fantastic email that is sure to wow whoever ends up reading it.
The format of a formal email is similar to the format of an informal email, the main difference being that formal emails use more formal language and phrases. Like a regular email written to a friend, a formal email usually includes:
By examining each of these components individually in the context of a formal email, it'll be much easy to craft the perfect message!
A subject line is simply the title of your email. While this part of the email might seem very small, it is actually extremely important because it's the first thing the recipient sees when they receive an email. The more eye-catching your subject line is, the more likely it is for the recipient to read your email, and even reply quicker.
The subject line should be clear, concise, and should tell the reader exactly what the email is about in just 5-8 words. For instance:
1. Interest in Editor Position
2. My Absence in Class Today: 01/08/22
3. Possible Letter of Recommendation
4. Scholarship Application Inquiry
5. Meeting Agenda for This Week: 08/21/22
Each of these examples is short, to the point, and tells the recipient what the email is about. Always make sure to check that you wrote the subject line in the designated box, as it is separate from the email body and it can be easy to forget!
Sometimes you may need to contact someone immediately, like if you have a sudden family emergency and need to tell your employer that you won't be at work. In a situation like this, it can be useful to start your subject line with "[Urgent]" followed by whatever the problem is. For example, the subject line in this situation might read: [Urgent] Family Emergency Absence.
Don't put the recipient's email in the recipient line (the line above the subject line) until you're ready to send your email. That way, you don't accidentally send the email unfinished by accident. This includes the Cc and Bcc lines.
Writing a formal email greeting is important because it pays respect to the person you are emailing. Some formal email greetings include:
It is important to choose an email greeting that matches the circumstance of your email. For example, if you were writing a formal email to your Aunt Joan, it would be appropriate to use the greeting "Hello Aunt Joan...". Conversely, if you were writing to a potential employer and inquiring about a job, you would use a more professional greeting, like "Dear Mr. Doe...".
Most often, your greeting will be followed with a comma. However, in very formal situations, it is also appropriate to use a colon. As a rule, as long as the greeting is properly respectful, then it is acceptable.
If you don't know exactly who you're writing the email to, "To whom it may concern," and "Greetings," are appropriate formal greetings to use. However, if possible, it is always best to try and find out exactly who you are emailing, and address them by name.
The email body text is the main section of your email. This section is typically focused on one or two topics with the goal of stating and justifying whatever you may be writing about. As a rule, you should begin your email body text by explaining why you're writing the email.
It's important to state the purpose of your email clearly so the recipient can understand why you're emailing and more easily help you. Some ways to introduce your purpose may include:
If you have never spoken to who you're emailing before, you should briefly introduce yourself before stating your purpose. An example of this might look like:
Dear Mr. Scott,
My name is Jane Doe and I'm a Senior at ABC High School. I am writing because I have read many of your articles in the XYZ newspaper and was wondering if I could interview you for an essay I'm writing for my Intro to Journalism class.
In this example, Jane introduces herself, and explains why she is emailing him in clear, plain words.
Try to keep your email concise. Keep in mind that people want to read their emails quickly. Don't include extra details if they're not needed. For instance, if you were writing an email to an employer about a sick day, you may not need to go into all of the details about your sickness.
It is enough to simply write "I am feeling very ill today and am unable to attend work" instead of "I am feeling very ill and have a high fever, stuffy nose, and the chills, so I will not be able to attend work." Your primary goal is to clearly convey your message so that it is easy to read and reply to.
If you are replying to a formal email, it is always nice to start the email with a "thank you" line. An example of a "thank you" line is "Thank you for getting back to me" or "Thank you for your prompt reply." What other lines might be useful when replying to a formal email?
A formal email's ending serves as a section to request a specific action, and show gratitude for the person you are emailing. It is often good to balance your request with a polite sentence or phrase. Some polite phrases you can use are:
Like a formal email greeting, the way you write your formal email ending depends on the circumstance. For instance, in the example above, Jane Doe asks Mr. Scott if she could interview him for her Intro to Journalism class essay. Jane Doe probably has a specific due date for her essay and might need Mr. Scott's reply by a certain date so that she can complete it. In this case, she might end her formal email like this:
Please let me know by November 12th if you are willing to be interviewed. If you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer them. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon!
This is a great formal email ending because Jane Doe states her request, and expresses her gratitude for the time Mr. Scott might take out of his schedule to read and reply to her email.
Similar to a formal email greeting, choosing a proper formal email signature is important because it adds to the tone of respect in your message. Some polite formal email signatures include:
When signing your formal email, you should always start a new paragraph for your signature, as well as an additional paragraph for your own name. In formal emails, it is best to sign both your first and last name. If you're writing on behalf of an organization, you should also put that in a separate paragraph below your name. Here is an example of correct signature formatting:
Thank you for your time, and I look forward to speaking with you more about this soon.
XYZ High School Newspaper
Congratulations! You're almost ready to send your email, but before you do make sure to go through this checklist to make sure your email is perfect.
If you've checked over your email, then it's time to send!
Here are some short formal email examples that you can use as inspiration for your own messages!
The greeting "Dear [name]," can definitely be used in a formal email and in some situations is the most appropriate greeting to use.
The best way to write a formal email is to keep a respectful tone, use formal greetings and signatures, and be concise with your message.
Always begin a formal email with a formal greeting such as "Dear [name]," or "To whom it may concern:". It is best to address the recipient of the email by name whenever possible.
Always end a formal email with a polite sentence or phrase such as "I look forward to hearing from you soon!" or "Thank you for your feedback!" You should also always sign your email with a formal signature such as "Sincerely" or "Best regards".
When replying to a formal email, the format stays the same except it is customary to begin the email with a "thank you" line, such as "Thank you for your prompt reply" or "Thank you for getting back to me."
Why is the subject line important?
It is the first part of your email that the recipient sees.
Why are formal email greetings and signatures important?
They add to the tone of respect in your email.
Which is an acceptable formal email greeting?
To whom it may concern:
What should your email body text be?
Short, concise, and easily readable.
Which is a correct formal email ending?
If you have any questions or concerns, please let me know!
Name at least three formal email signatures.
What should you always do before sending your email?
Proofread it for any spelling or grammar mistakes and double-check the recipient's email address, title, and name.
True or false...
You should only use plain fonts in formal emails, like Arial or the email platform's default font.
What is the main section of your formal email called and what is its purpose?
It is called the email body text and its purpose is to state and justify your email's purpose.
What do Bcc and Cc mean and what do they do?
This email feature sends extra recipients a copy of the email.
Bcc = Blind carbon copy, email is hidden from other recipients.
Cc = Carbon copy, email is shown to all other recipients.
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