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Decades ago, you would have had to deliver a message to someone by physically going to where the other person was or sending a physical letter in the mail. Communication was slow, making the spread of information slow as well. With increasing advancements in communication technology, it is more and more common for communication to take place online, which allows messages and information to be shared much faster.

One common method for sharing messages is email. It is one of the fastest ways to share information, and this is especially true for businesses and professional communication. Email is one of the top used communication methods in businesses, so it's important to understand how email works, why email is important, and the types of emails that you can encounter.

Email [+] Online Communication [+] StudySmarterOnline communication is growing every day, Pixabay.

Email: Definition

Email is an information and communication technology in which digital messages are sent from one person to another person or multiple people. This communication takes place completely online. In order for emails to be sent, you need to be connected to the internet and set up with an email server.

An email: an electronic form of mail that sends messages from a sender to a recipient.

To send an email, you need to be logged in. However, you don't have to be logged in to receive those emails; you just need to have the email account set up.

If you have a Gmail email account, Gmail has servers that allow you to send and receive emails as long as that server is online.

Email "mailboxes" operate similarly to regular mailboxes in that they accept, deliver, and store messages. The first email was invented in 1965 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).1 This was the beginning of using email as a tool for exchanging messages and files in academia.

It wasn't until the early 1990s that email became more mainstream with platforms like AOL and Hotmail. Originally, emails were only sent back and forth between desktop computers. Now, as technology has advanced, we have personal computers on our phones and tablets. This makes communication far more efficient than it's ever been before.

Email [+] Online Email Mailbox [+] StudySmarterEmails have their own structure similar to written letters, Pixabay

Email: Structure

The structure of an email will vary quite a bit depending on if it's used for personal or business reasons. For a business email, the message might stick to a more traditional structure, as shown below. A personal email can be structured this way too, of course, but there are no set rules for formatting, introducing, or closing a personal email. However, most emails will be structured to include an introduction, body, and conclusion.


This is a short and pleasant greeting that introduces the purpose of your email.


This is where the actual message is. The length can vary, but business emails usually stay shorter – around three paragraphs or less. There is usually a line space between each body paragraph in order to make the email more readable.


Choose a closing greeting appropriate for the recipient. This will be based on whether the email is formal or informal.


Pictures or documents can be included as an attachment.

Email [+] Email Example [+] StudySmarterMost emails will be structured to include an introduction, body, and conclusion, StudySmarter Originals

Email: Important Terms

Important terms you will encounter when writing emails include to, from, CC, BCC, and subject.


This refers to the address of the recipient. An email address includes the recipient's "name" and the platform they use for email, i.e.,


The recipient will see this in the email header. This refers to the address of the sender, i.e.,


This stands for Carbon Copy. This is a list of people who are also receiving a copy of the email message. Anyone who receives the email will also be able to see who is on the CC list. This could be used to include a group of co-workers or any relevant people in the email in order to keep them in the loop about business updates. This feature is more common in formal emails (discussed below).


This stands for Blind Carbon Copy. This is also a list of people who receive the email message, but this list will be hidden from all the email recipients.


This is a word or short phrase that gives the recipient the topic of the email.

Examples of Email Platforms

There are many platforms that people can use to communicate with each other online. There are several popular ones to choose from, each with different benefits. Some things to look at when choosing a platform include storage capacity, attachment size capacity, and email security.

Most email platforms today are free with options for business upgrades.

When a business chooses a certain email platform for its business, all the employees hired will use the exact same platform. An employee would also be given an email address that the business chooses, with the business's name in the email, i.e., ""

Here are some of the most common email platforms and their benefits.

Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, and Outlook

While there are many different platforms that can be used for email, some are more common than others.


  • This email service is provided through the Google search engine. This makes it an extremely popular platform because of how much easier it is to share information across other Google platforms, i.e., Google Docs, Google Drive, and Google Photos.
  • Easily accessible on desktops, phones, and tablets.
  • Powerful search options.
  • Secure.


  • Upgrades allow for the use of Microsoft Office tools – This is appealing in academic and business settings.
  • Message recovery.
  • Ease of use on desktops, phones, and tablets.

Yahoo! Mail:

  • Provided through Yahoo's search engine.
  • Includes Yahoo News.
  • Large storage.
  • Secure.

Speaking strictly of business emails, they can be either formal or informal. In order to understand the difference between the two, you'll need to look at the overall tone of the email. Email tone has evolved over the last several years, but you will still encounter reasons to use only formal emails. Some key things to look for if you're unsure whether an email is formal or informal are introductions, endings, and word choice.

Formal Email

In formal emails, standard English is used to communicate.

Dear Mr. Smith,

Thank you for getting in contact with us. I'm sending confirmation that I received your memo this morning. I submitted it for review and will be discussing your ideas with my colleagues this afternoon. We would like to schedule a meeting no later than May 6th in order to discuss the topics you've brought up.

Could you please give me your availability by Friday afternoon so that we can schedule something as soon as possible? Please also CC any other members of your team that will be joining the meeting so that we can prepare for the proper amount of people.

I look forward to discussing these issues further with you.


Ms. Dawson

Looking over this example, it's apparent that the tone of this email is formal. There isn't any slang, and each section of the email is in a proper format.

Notice the introductory and closing phrases. "Dear" and "regards" are used, which are common in more formal emails. Using the phrase "thank you" versus "thanks" is also another indicator that this is a formal email.

When to Use Formal Email

You may want to use formal email if:

  • You are mailing someone from a more formal culture. This might require some research, especially if they are from a different country. This could involve a formal work culture.
  • You are contacting somebody new or for the first time, i.e., when reaching out to a potential new business partner.
  • You want to show respect to someone, i.e., a client or somebody in upper management.

Usually, it's best to begin your communication with a more formal tone. Based on the environment or situation, a more casual email tone can be adopted if and when appropriate.

Informal Email

This type of email is more casual. You can usually address the recipient by their first name and use more conversational words. These types of emails often reflect the way people actually speak. Therefore, in the right circumstances, they may make more sense to use.

Hey John,

Thanks for submitting that memo. I spoke to my team this morning and we would love to set up a time to talk to you about your findings in the next week or so.

Let me know if you're available, and if so, what times. Thanks!

Talk to you soon,


Notice the difference between this email and the formal email. "Hey" is used instead of "dear." "Thanks" is used instead of "thank you." What other differences can you see?

When to Use an Informal Email

You may want to use a more informal email if:

  • You have already built up a working relationship with a co-worker, and it's understood that you can drop the formalities.
  • You speak with your recipient daily, whether online or in person.
  • The company culture prefers a more casual tone.

An important thing to remember when deciding whether an informal or formal email is more appropriate is to gauge how your recipient has been addressing you. If you've been addressed in a more casual tone or format, you probably wouldn't need to suddenly switch to more formal emails. As always, use your best judgment.

Importance of Email

The emergence of email has shaped how we communicate in the modern world. Email is much faster than sending postal mail, and it's also less expensive. You don't have to worry about buying paper, envelopes, or stamps – something that some people may consider to be the more environmentally friendly option.

Email is good for record-keeping because it keeps a written record of things that you wouldn't get over the phone. It also eliminates a lot of paperwork in an office setting because communication and transactions can be tracked via email.

One of the biggest reasons that email is important is because of how quickly it allows us to share data. Businesses have the capacity to grow and share information at record speeds, so finding the right platform for you is always going to be in your best interest.

Email - Key takeaways

  • An email is an electronic form of mail that sends messages from one computer user to another. It is used in a completely online format.
  • Types of emails include formal and informal emails.
  • Formal emails use standard English and can be used for addressing someone new.
  • Informal emails are more casual and are used to address someone with whom a relationship has already been established.
  • Some popular email platforms include Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo!


  1. Samual Gibbs. "How Did Email Grow from Messages Between Academics to a Global Epidemic?" 2016.

Frequently Asked Questions about Email

An email is an electronic form of mail that sends messages from a sender to a recipient.

Email allows people and businesses to share data much faster than by postal mail. This is important because it allows for growth and information to be shared more easily. 

CC stands for Carbon Copy. This is a list of other recipients of an email that everyone who receives the email can see. 

This depends on whether the email is formal or informal. If an email is formal it would be best to end with a more proper phrase like "Best regards" or "Sincerely." If it's an informal email, then a phrase like "Talk to you soon" or "Cheers" would be more appropriate.

The two main types of email are formal and informal emails. These are both used in business settings and it's important to decipher which type is most appropriate for a given situation. 

Final Email Quiz


What is email?

Show answer


An email is an electronic form of mail that sends messages from a sender to a recipient.

Show question


Which of these is false?

Show answer


You have to be logged into your email account in order to receive an email.

Show question


True or False?

Emails can only be sent on desktops.

Show answer


False -- Nowadays emails can be quickly sent from desktops, laptops, tablets, or personal phones. As long as there is internet and access to the email platform, an email can be sent.

Show question


What does CC stand for?

Show answer


Carbon Copy. This is a list of people that being sent the same email. Everyone can see this list. 

Show question


What does BCC stand for?

Show answer


Blind Carbon Copy. This is a list of people sent the same email. This list is hidden and can't be seen by email recipients. 

Show question


What is the subject of an email?

Show answer


This is one word or a short phrase that informs the recipient of the topic of an email. 

Show question


Where will you see the sender's email address?

Show answer


The sender's email address will be seen on the From: line. 

Show question


What are two types of emails businesses send?

Show answer


The two types businesses use are Formal and Informal emails.

Show question


True or False

An informal email should always use "Dear" as an email greeting. 

Show answer


False -- While it is ok to use "dear" in an email greeting, informal emails allow for causal greetings such as "Hi" or "Hey there."

Show question


What type of closing is best for a formal email?

Show answer


Using a proper phrase such as "Best Regards" or "Sincerely" would be most appropriate. 

Show question


If you speak with a coworker daily, would you use a formal or informal email?

Show answer


Under these circumstances it would be more common to use an informal email. 

Show question

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