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Formal Email Excellence: Your Guide to Making Every Word Count

Want to improve your professional communications? Learn how to craft the perfect formal email for improved client relations and seamless team collaboration.

As soon as you click send, your email zooms off to your recipient’s inbox, quick as a flash. There’s usually no easy oops button to fix things if you make a mistake, so you’ve got to get it right before you send it off.

The stakes are even higher when sending work emails to clients, colleagues, and higher-ups. You need to ensure every word is just right, keep the tone polite and professional, and make your message crystal clear. This is where the craft of writing formal emails comes into play.

By mastering this essential skill, your formal emails will reflect your professionalism and make sure people take every word seriously. It’s key to making a great first impression and keeping conversations productive and on track. Ready to dive in and learn the ropes? Here’s how to write formal emails that open doors and build lasting professional relationships.

What are formal emails—and why use them?

Formal emails are clear, well-organized, and courteous messages used for professional communications. They’re different from the emails you’d send to a friend or family member because they follow specific rules. You start with a proper greeting, write the content using formal language, and finish with a respectful sign-off.

Typically, you write formal emails to important people or those you don’t know well or at all, like a new customer, potential employer, or higher-up at your company. You might also use this style to address a serious matter, deliver significant news, or make a formal inquiry, like a vacation request. It’s also a good idea if you’re simply unfamiliar with the recipient’s professional communication style.

Writing formally shows that you’re a professional and it helps prevent any confusion about what you’re saying. It also signals that you’re taking things seriously and have respect for the person you’re emailing and the subject of the conversation.

Effective formal email format for business correspondence

A formal email is a lot like a formal letter, just in digital form. It uses the same structure and principles to ensure the message is clear and respectful to the reader. This approach helps maintain a polite and professional tone, whether you’re reaching out to a client or updating your boss. Here’s an overview of the essential parts to include when writing a formal email.

Subject line

The subject line acts as your email’s headline. For the best open rates, aim to grab the reader’s attention and share the essence of your message in 7 words or less. You need to communicate the importance and relevance of your email quickly, so choose your words wisely.

A good subject line tells the recipient what your email is about and why you’re contacting them. For example, when sharing meeting dates, say “Project Status Meeting on December 5th” instead of a vague statement like “Meeting.” But it all depends on who you’re emailing and the reason for your email.  

Strong subject line examples include:

  • Onboarding Schedule and Checklist
  • Feedback Needed on Draft Proposal
  • Annual Marketing Strategy Webinar Invitation
  • Product Demo Appointment Date Request
  • Updated Project Timeline Available for Review

These subject lines sum up the email’s content and the action required. This helps capture the recipient’s attention and encourages them to address your formal email promptly. A well-crafted subject line can make the difference between a swift response and your email getting lost in a busy inbox.  

Professional greeting

A professional greeting sets the tone for your email. It’s the first personal touch, showing respect and courtesy toward the recipient. The standard practice is to begin with “Dear” or “Hello,” followed by their title and last name, like “Dear Mr. Smith.” You can also use their job title, like “Dr.,” to show respect for their role. If you’re unsure of their preferred title or gender, use their full name to maintain a formal tone.

When the exact name isn’t known, you may have to get creative. You might choose “Dear [Company Name] Hiring Manager,” “Dear Tech Support Team,” or “To Whom It May Concern” as a generic yet polite alternative. These general greetings still personalize your message, making it more likely to receive a thoughtful response.

Body copy

The body of your email is where you get into the details of your message. Kick things off with a standard formal email opening stating your email’s purpose. For instance, when asking for information about a project, you might say, “I’m writing to inquire about the project status and timeline.” However, if you haven’t spoken with the person before, it’s best to introduce yourself in the opening lines.

As you write the formal email body, be direct and get to the main point quickly, but don’t sacrifice clarity for brevity. Keep the content to 1-2 short paragraphs covering any info you want to share. This could include why you’re writing the formal email, any requests or questions, and relevant details about the topic.  

Formal closing

Adding a formal closing before your signature can leave a lasting impression. It’s the final note of your email, much like a firm handshake at the end of a face-to-face meeting. To end the conversation positively, choose a closing that suits the tone of your formal email and your relationship with the recipient.

Sign-offs commonly used in the formal email format include:

  • Sincerely
  • Cordially
  • Yours truly
  • Best regards
  • Thank you

Any of these closings work well to signal the end of the conversation while maintaining a professional tone. Remember to add a comma after your chosen sign-off to transition to your signature on the following line.  


Your formal email signature is like your digital business card. It should include your full name, position, company, and contact information, such as your phone number and email address. You might also want to add your company’s website or physical address.

A professional signature lets the other person know exactly who you are, how to contact you, and where you’re writing from. This can be particularly helpful if they need to get back to you quickly or send you additional info through other channels.

If the platform allows it, create a preset signature that automatically populates when you start a new formal email. Then, all you have to do is check it before sending each email to confirm that it’s correct and up to date.

Seven simple steps to writing formal emails  

Writing formal emails is important, but it doesn’t have to feel intimidating. By following the 7 simple steps below, you can easily compose professional emails that make a good impression and get the right results.  

Step #1: Select a professional font

Your choice of font matters. Decorative fonts, like comic sans, aren’t ideal for formal writing. They’re too distracting and hard to read. Instead, opt for a classic and professional style such as Arial, Times New Roman, or Calibri. Also, stick to a font size that’s fairly easy on the eyes, generally around 10-14 points.

Step #2: Research the recipient

You can only personalize a formal email if you know key details about the recipient. Take the time to research their full name, job title, and other relevant details that will help you personalize your message. This will allow you to address them correctly and tailor your email to their needs.

Step #3: Craft a clear subject line

While some people leave the subject line for last, writing it first can help keep your formal email clear and concise. Aim to summarize your reason for writing in just a few words to effectively convey your email’s purpose. Include action words in your subject line to prompt the recipient to take the next steps, whether that’s reviewing documents or confirming a meeting time.

Step #4: Open with an appropriate salutation

Next, it’s time to write a proper salutation using what you know about the recipient. If you know their title and last name, use that along with “Dear” or even “Hello” as your salutation. Otherwise, just use their full name or a general greeting until you can gather more details later through further emails. 

Step #5: State your reason for writing using the right tone

You can now get to the heart of your formal email. Start the first paragraph with a brief introduction or by sharing why you’re writing. Whether it’s a question, an update, or a request, be clear and straightforward. If needed, add a second paragraph with more details about the subject at hand. Avoid unnecessary jargon and keep your paragraphs short for easy reading.

Step #6: Sign off with a formal closing and professional signature

The formal closing and signature come next to wrap everything up. Select a closing that matches the email’s tone and aligns with how well you know the person you’re emailing. For example, if you have a close professional relationship, “Best” works well. However, “Sincerely” may be more suitable for an initial contact. Whatever you choose, place a comma after the closing, then press enter before adding your professional signature. 

Step #7: Review your formal email to confirm it’s ready to send

The final step to crafting a formal email is thoroughly reviewing it to confirm it’s ready to send. Go beyond simply proofreading by running the content through a spellchecker. Also, consider using a tool like Grammarly to check for grammatical errors and verify you’re using a professional tone.

Don’t forget to confirm that you have the correct recipient’s name, title, and email address. Then, double-check that your subject line, signature, and attachments look just right before hitting send. Once your email leaves your hands, it’s not easy to recall and revise, so take your time on this step. 

Best practices to remember when writing professional emails

When getting ready to send a formal email, it’s not just the step-by-step process of writing it that counts. There’s a bit more to it if you want your emails to really hit the mark. Besides getting the basic format right, the following best practices can greatly affect how your message comes through.  

  • Avoid slang and emojis: Reserve casual talk for social chats. Using textspeak and emojis in formal emails can come off as unprofessional and take away from your message. Stick to writing complete sentences in a respectful tone to maintain credibility.
  • Cut unnecessary information: Be as concise as possible without leaving anything out. If a piece of information isn’t adding value or directly relating to your main point, it’s just a distraction. Trim your emails down to what’s truly necessary to make the biggest impact.
  • Consider a formal email template: If you don’t feel comfortable crafting your own formal emails, think about using an email template at first. Its preset pattern ensures you will add all the important parts, like greetings and sign-offs, to keep your emails looking neat and professional. Don’t want to use a template? Scour your inbox for good formal email examples to use as a guide.  
  • Use a professional email address: Your email address should reflect your professionalism. Silly addresses made in the past, like, just won’t cut it. Use an address that reflects your name and organization to send the right message. 
  • Double-check email attachments: Always take a second look at attachments before sending your email. For example, if you’re emailing a potential employer about a job, make sure you actually attach your resume (and confirm that it’s the right one, too).
  • Review the recipient’s details: A simple error like misspelling a recipient’s name can be an awkward start to your formal email. Triple-check these details to show your attentiveness and respect—and avoid a potentially embarrassing situation.
  • Add a delivery receipt: If you’re sending time-sensitive information, a delivery receipt can come in handy. It provides peace of mind that your email reached the right inbox by alerting you once the recipient opens it.

The goal is to make your formal emails as clear, courteous, and effective as possible. By using these tips and tricks, you can ensure your emails deliver the intended message and reflect positively on your professional image.

Write formal emails to boost your business communications

Learning how to write a formal email can significantly impact your career success. By keeping your emails clear, polite, and well organized, you’ll ensure your message gets across as intended. This will help you build stronger relationships with your clients, colleagues, and partners. They’re sure to see you as someone who’s reliable and professional—and that’s a big plus in any business. So, if you want to take your career to the next level, put serious effort into perfecting your formal email skills.

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