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Formal Email

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English

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.

Formal Email Keyboard tiles spelling email StudySmarterKeyboard tiles arranged to spell "email." Pexels.com

Formal email format

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:

  • A Subject Line
  • A Formal Email Greeting
  • Email Body Text
  • A Formal Email Ending
  • A Signature

By examining each of these components individually in the context of a formal email, it'll be much easy to craft the perfect message!

Formal Email: The subject line

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.

Formal Email Subject line StudySmarterNew email message with a blank subject line.

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.

Formal email greeting

Writing a formal email greeting is important because it pays respect to the person you are emailing. Some formal email greetings include:

  • Dear Mr./Mrs./Dr./Professor [Last name],
  • Greetings,
  • To whom it may concern:
  • Hello [recipient's name],

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.

Formal Email: Email body text

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:

  • I am writing to enquire about...
  • I am writing in reference to...

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?

Formal email ending

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:

  • Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
  • If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to let me know.
  • I look forward to speaking with you soon!
  • Thank you for your feedback!

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!

Sincerely,

Jane Doe

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.

Formal email signature

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:

  • Sincerely,
  • Respectfully,
  • Thanks again,
  • Kind regards,
  • Best regards,
  • Best,
  • Yours truly,

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.

Best regards,

Jane Doe

XYZ High School Newspaper

Formal Email: Helpful hints before sending your email

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.

Formal Email Cell phone displaying email application StudySmarterCell phone displaying email application. Pexels.com

  1. Proofread your email. Always check your spelling and grammar before sending!
  2. Make sure you're sending the email from an appropriate address. You want your email address to be professional, typically in the format: firstname.lastname@xyz.com. You don't want to send a formal email from an address like "catlover982@xyz.com."
  3. Double-check the recipient's email address, title, and name. After all this work, you don't want to send your message to the wrong person! You also don't want to spell their name incorrectly or address them by the wrong title (i.e., Dr. John Doe versus Mr. John Doe).
  4. Use professional fonts! Stick to fonts like Arial or Times New Roman. When in doubt, just use the email platform's default font.
  5. Don't forget to attach files! Whether you're sending your resume or a newspaper article, you don't want to forget to attach it to your email– especially if you mentioned it in your body text!
  6. Add Cc or Bcc recipients! If you want your email to be sent to multiple people, don't forget about the Cc and Bcc email feature. Both the Cc and Bcc lines send a copy of your email to additional people. If you write a person's email address in the carbon copy line (Cc), the person's address is shown to all recipients of the email. If you write an email in the blind carbon copy line (Bcc), the person's email is hidden from all recipients of the email.

If you've checked over your email, then it's time to send!

Formal email examples

Here are some short formal email examples that you can use as inspiration for your own messages!

Formal Email Example of a Job Inquiry StudySmarterExample of a formal email inquiring about a job.

Formal Email Example of a Formal Email to a Professor StudySmarter
Example of a formal email to a Professor.

Formal Email - Key takeaways

  • A formal email's tone is always professional and polite.
  • The subject line of a formal email is important because it is the first thing the recipient sees.
  • Formal emails always include a formal email greeting like "Dear [name]" and a formal signature like "Sincerely."
  • Formal email's body text should be concise, to the point, and easy to read.
  • A formal email's ending is an opportunity to make a request and express gratitude towards to recipient.
  • Before sending a formal email, you should always carefully proofread it for spelling and grammar errors.
  • Always make sure you're sending the email to the correct recipient and addressing them by the correct name and title.

Formal Email

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."

Final Formal Email Quiz

Question

Why is the subject line important?

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Answer

It is the first part of your email that the recipient sees.

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Question

Why are formal email greetings and signatures important?

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Answer

They add to the tone of respect in your email.

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Question

Which is an acceptable formal email greeting?

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Answer

To whom it may concern:

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Question

What should your email body text be?

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Answer

Short, concise, and easily readable.

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Question

Which is a correct formal email ending?

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Answer

If you have any questions or concerns, please let me know! 

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Question

Name at least three formal email signatures.

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Answer

  • Sincerely
  • Respectfully
  • Thanks again
  • Kind Regards
  • Best regards
  • Best
  • Yours truly

Show question

Question

What should you always do before sending your email?

Show answer

Answer

Proofread it for any spelling or grammar mistakes and double-check the recipient's email address, title, and name. 

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Question

True or false...

You should only use plain fonts in formal emails, like Arial or the email platform's default font. 

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Answer

True

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Question

What is the main section of your formal email called and what is its purpose?

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Answer

It is called the email body text and its purpose is to state and justify your email's purpose. 

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Question

What do Bcc and Cc mean and what do they do?

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Answer

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. 


Show question

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