How to Write a Formal Email
Whether in school, at college, or in the world of work, learning how to write a formal email is a crucial skill that helps you present your most professional side. Sure, everyone knows how to fire off a quick text to a friend or family member, but mastering the art of the formal email takes a little bit more than a few well-placed emoji’s and a bunch of cat memes.
However, there’s no reason to fear the formal email! It’s a skill that you can easily learn with just a few helpful pointers along the way. Here, we take you through how to write formal emails in our step-by-step guide, detailing each part of the process so you can quickly and confidently create emails for any application.
What is a Formal Email Exactly?
A formal email is simply a way of writing a message that is both polite and respectful, without being overly familiar. It differs from casual, everyday emails and messages in that it follows a defined structure and requires a different type of language. Formal emails get directly to the point while presenting important information or requests in a clearly laid out manner. When learning how to write a formal email, it’s important to remember that the recipient should be able to easily identify the core points of your message so that they can be addressed in a reply.
When Should I use a Formal Email?
Formal emails are used in a variety of settings and for a broad range of applications. They are used at school or in college to contact professors, at work when dealing with customers and clients, and they are often used in everyday situations when you need to request information from someone you don’t know very well, or whenever you are contacting someone in authority. As a general rule, if you’re unsure whether to write a formal email or a casual message, then it’s usually better to stick with the formal.
How to Write a Formal Email
If you want to learn how to write a formal email, pay attention to the conventions used when beginning and ending your message, as well as ensuring that the body of your message is well composed.
How to Start a Formal Email
When starting a formal email, the subject line is your first opportunity to express what your message contains. Keeping the subject line simple, succinct, and factual will help to ensure your email is read by the recipient and avoids the Spam folder.
Once you have composed your subject line, you need to think about a suitable greeting. These will change depending on who you are writing to and why. Below we have listed some of the most common greetings and when you should use them.
|Greeting||When to Use|
|Dear Sir/Madam||When you know the recipient’s name|
|To Whom it May Concern||When writing to an organization/company|
|Dear Mr./Ms. (surname)||When you know the recipient’s surname|
|Dear (Dr./Professor/President) (surname)||When writing to someone with a recognized title|
How to Compose a Formal Email
If you want to learn how to write a formal email, then perhaps the most important point to remember is that the body of your message must remain clear and precise. The reason for writing formal emails is often to either request or share important information, so it is crucial that you avoid long and complicated sentences. In addition to his fundamental rule, here are a few other points to focus on when considering how to compose a formal email:
- Introduction – Whenever you are writing to someone for the first time, you should always introduce yourself. In the introduction, you should state your name, your affiliations (such as company or school), and the reason for your message.
- Language – When writing a formal email, the language used should also be formal. Avoid colloquial language, slang, popular acronyms (TYL, IRL, etc.) and always remain polite.
- Formatting – A formal email should be formatted as clearly as possible. Use short paragraphs that are clearly delineated. If required, bullet points are a useful tool to concisely put across important points.
How to End a Formal Email
Ending a formal email in the correct way is equally as important as the rest of the message. Your ending should consist of the following three elements.
- Call to Action – The final line after the body of your text should tell the recipient what to do next. This might be a polite request for a prompt reply, a link to more information such as your portfolio, or any other guidance on how the recipient can help.
- Formal Closing – A formal email requires a formal closing. You can read more about the correct type of closing to use in our guide on how to end an email.
- Signature – If you have a signature, you should use it. Your signature should contain your full name, the company or organization you belong to, your title, and contact information such as email and phone number.
How to Send a Formal Email
Once you have refined each of the above elements and crafted the perfect formal email for your purpose, it’s time to hit the send button. However, before you do, there’s a few things to remember:
- Check Email Addresses – This goes for both your email address and the recipient’s. Firstly, if you have multiple email addresses, ensure you use the most professional one. This usually means using a company or school email address in place of your personal address. Secondly, double-check the recipient’s email address—all that hard work composing your mail is wasted if it ends up in the wrong inbox.
- Proofread – Proofreading your emails is an important skill to have, and formal emails should be proofed with the utmost care. Check for spelling, grammar, and clarity. Edit as necessary.
- Double Check Attachments & Links – If you have included attachments you should check that they are clearly named. Any links should be checked to ensure they work.
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