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A critical part of an email is the introduction. The introduction is the first part of an email and, therefore, the first lines that the recipient reads. This section sets the tone for the rest of the email, establishes respect, and tells the reader what the email is about. Learning to write an audience-appropriate email introduction is thus an important writing skill.
To introduce something is to make it known. The introduction of an email is thus the section in which the writer introduces themselves and the reason they are writing. To ensure the recipient reads the whole email and sends an appropriate response, the writer should write in a succinct, considerate manner.
The best email introductions are straightforward and polite. In general, email introductions start with a greeting. Then comes a polite opening phrase, followed by the main topic of the email.
For example, say a high school student wants to ask a college admission representative about a program. Instead of jumping right into their questions, they should say something like “I hope this email finds you well” first. Then the student could introduce who they are and why they are writing. This shows that the writer is respectful and values the reader’s time.
Before writing the introduction to an email, writers need to write an appropriate subject line. The subject line of an email goes in the subject box above the email itself. The subject line tells the recipient the topic of the email in about ten words or less. It is clear, concise, and specific and sums up the general topic without too much detail.
For instance, say a student is emailing a college admissions director with a specific question. The subject line would not say: “ I am writing to ask a question about box three on the application to the Engineering program. Instead, it might state: “Question regarding Engineering application.” This tells the advisor the general idea of the email, and then they can read the specific question in the email itself.
Writers should write formal emails when communicating with someone they have a professional relationship with or someone they do not know. For instance, emails to professors and colleagues are typically always formal emails.
When writing a formal email, one should open with a formal introductory phrase from the chart below, such as "To Whom It May Concern." Then the writer should use at least one sentence that establishes respect or appreciation for the recipient, such as "I hope you are doing well."
If it is the first time a writer sends a formal email to a person or group of people, they should introduce themselves with their full name and their relationship. For instance, a student in a large college class might introduce themselves to their professor in the following way:
Subject: Question about course requirements
Dear Professor Roberts,
I hope you had a wonderful winter holiday. My name is John Smith, and I am a student in your Introduction to European Art History course. I am writing to inquire about the requirements for this course…
Writers should start a new line after the greeting to make the body of the email separate.
When writing formal emails, writers should also avoid using unprofessional words or images. Therefore, writers should not use emojis, slang, or text lingo. They also should not go into too much detail about personal information or stories they would not mention in the workplace.
When writing a casual email, writers do not have to use the same formal language as in a formal email. However, writers should still be respectful and appreciative. Writers write casual emails to people they already know, such as friends, family members, and acquaintances.
Writers can also use an informal tone when writing a casual email. Informal vocabulary, punctuation, and sentence structure shape this tone. Casual emails can be more straightforward and may include personal information. For instance, if someone is writing an email to their best friend, they would not have to make a formal statement such as “I hope this email finds you well” and would instead write something like the following:
Subject: Checking up!
I miss you so much! How's the family? Will you all be in town again this December?
In an informal email, writers can include the informal elements they need to avoid in formal emails. They can include elements like emojis, text lingo, inside jokes, and personal anecdotes, especially if they know the recipient extremely well. However, they should still demonstrate respect for the recipient by using kind language and maintaining clarity to ensure the recipient can easily understand the text.
The same rules of formality apply to the subject lines of formal emails. When writing to a recipient in a professional context, writers need to be as clear as possible in the subject line. They should be specific so that the recipient knows what to expect when they open the email. Writers should also maintain a professional tone in the subject line and avoid using informal language. In contrast, writers can be a bit more casual in subject lines for informal emails. For instance, the following chart demonstrates the difference between formal and informal subject lines on similar topics:
Inquiry Re: Yesterday's Exam
Questions about that hard exam yesterday
Invitation to our barbecue. Sat. April 10th
Barbecue this Saturday-you coming?
Thank you for your time today!
In an email subject line, “re:” is short for “regarding.”
The phrases one should use in an email introduction will depend on whether the email is formal or casual and on the overall subject of the email. However, the following is a list of general phrases one can use to open an email in a polite manner:
To Whom It May Concern,
How's it going?
When writing a formal email, writers should use a situation before the recipient's name, such as Mr., Ms., or Dr. For instance, if writing an email to someone named John Smith, a person should write "Dear Mr. Smith." Using salutations is a polite way to address the recipient and establish an appropriate tone.
I hope this email finds you well.
How's it going?
I hope you are doing well.
Long time, no see!
It was wonderful to meet you!
It was great to see ya!
Thank you for your message.
Thanks for the message!
Similar to writing an essay, writers should always make sure they proofread emails for grammar and spelling mistakes. Proofreading ensures that the recipient understands the message. Writing an email without grammar and spelling errors also helps ensure the writer appears professional in a formal email.
The following is an example of a formal email that a high school student might send to a teacher regarding their feedback on an essay.
Subject: Feedback Meeting Request
Dear Professor Smith,
I hope this email finds you well. Thank you for taking the time to write detailed comments on my literary analysis paper. I am writing to ask if I can set up a meeting to discuss your feedback….
The same rules of formality and tone apply when responding to an email. After receiving an email, one should respond by expressing gratitude for the email or acknowledging its importance. Then they should move on to discussing the subject of their response. For instance, a writer could start a formal response to an email with the following lines:
Dear —, Thank you for your message. I appreciate you taking the time to help me with this process. I am still a bit confused regarding step two. Is it possible for you to send more resources on that step?
A writer crafting an informal email on the same topic could use a more casual tone and write something like this:
Hi —, Thanks for helping me! I still don't really get it though. What is step two asking me? Do you have any more info on this?
Note how the writer of the second email got straight to the point. Writers can be a bit more candid in informal emails because they know the recipient. However, the writer still respected the recipient by expressing gratitude in the informal email.
To write an email introduction a writer should open with a greeting, a polite phrase, introduce themselves, and then state the purpose of their email.
A good email introduction addresses the recipient with respect, expresses appreciation for their time, and gets to the point.
Writers should start an email sentence with polite language such as “I hope you are doing well.”
To respond to an introduction email one should show appreciation for the original email and then address the main point of the email.
To write an introduction email writers should start with a polite greeting and phrase. Then they should introduce themselves and the topic of their email.
Which of the following establishes a formal tone?
To Whom it May Concern,
A student wants to write an email to her high school English teacher. Which type of email should she use?
True or False. Writers should open a formal email by immediately asking for what they want.
False. To show respect to the recipient writers should include a polite phrase first, such as “I hope you are doing well.”
A high school student wants to write an email to the basketball coach at her prospective university, Susan Jenkins. Which of the following greetings should she use?
Dear Coach Jenkins,
True or False. The first line of an email goes in the same line as the greeting.
False. Writers should start a new line after the greeting for the first sentence of their email.
What is the main difference between a casual email and a formal email?
Is the following first line formal or casual?
How’s it going?
True or False. Writers should include a salutation (such as Mrs., Dr., etc.) before the recipient’s name in a formal email.
Jenna is writing several emails. Which recipient should she send a casual email to?
What is the maximum number of words for an email's subject line?
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