How to start and end a business email

On our page about business letter writing phrases we listed the rules for when to use Yours sincerely and Yours faithfully. Quite a few users of the site have asked if there are any similar rules for writing emails.

In answer to the question, I think there are two things to consider.

Firstly, emails have a short history compared to that of letters and consequently there are no fixed rules. However, that doesn’t mean that there is no etiquette for emails. There definitely is.

Secondly, if we are trying to establish some kind of general rule, we should remember that there are basically two types of email:

  • the formal email (business, work-related)
  • the informal email (usually to friends or acquaintances).

Obviously a formal email will require different phrases and language style to an informal email written to, say, a friend.

Here are some examples of the way I usually start and end business emails.

When we know the recipient’s name:

[salutation] [sign-off]
Dear Mr Smith Regards
Dear Mrs Coles Regards
Dear Miss Jones Regards

When writing to a colleague or close business partner:

[salutation] [sign-off]
Dear Vladimir Best regards / Best wishes
Dear Annemarie Best regards / Best wishes

A friendlier form here would be to write Hi Vladimir, Hi Annemarie. This is common at many companies.

When addressing more than one person:

[salutation] [sign-off]
Gentlemen
formal (to several male colleagues)
Regards
Dear All
formal (to several colleagues)
Regards
Hello, everyone
informal (to several colleagues)
Use an informal close, relevant to the content of the email.
Hi, everyone
informal, friendly (to several colleagues)
Use an informal close, relevant to the content of the email.

 

These are the guidelines that I use for my business emails. However, I appreciate that trends come and go, and that etiquette can differ from country to country and from company to company.

What do you use in your email? Do you prefer any other phrases, such as Warm regards or Warmest regards? Please leave a comment below and share your opinion with everyone.

Comments

  1. It’s nice to see the art of letter writing applied to email correspondence. In these times of text messages and forum short codes, the skill of writing is almost becoming a lost art form – and in business it should be even more important that professionalism and courtesy is maintained.

  2. Should I capitalize the first letter of the word everyone when I write a salutation? On your web everyone is writing in lower cases but I’ve seen it writing differently; for example: Hi Everyone.

    • Carla,
      Using a capital letter (Dear All, Hello Everyone, etc.) probably does indicate a little more respect and may be useful for more formal emails and/or when addressing superiors. In the end, I think it’s a matter of personal choice – I’d stick to lower case in informal emails.

  3. Is it okay to say ‘okay’ when replying to a formal letter?

    • No, we don’t use okay or OK in formal letters or emails. Depending on the context, you may want to say that something is fine, convenient or suitable. There are many synonyms.

  4. I have a question related to ending a formal letter. If we write a formal inquiry or ohter business type letter, is it recommended to put additional information about our sex in order to introduce ourselves to a recipient.
    For instance:

    (Mrs) Margaret Miller

    Thanks for a reply.

    • Hello, Margaret.

      It depends who you’re writing to, I think. It also depends on your name. A native English speaker would have no problem understanding that Margaret is a woman, but some non-native speakers may not be aware that Margaret is a female’s name. I’ve known English people assume someone called Jan is a woman (short for Janet in the UK). On the continent, however, Jan is a man’s name more often than not. I’d suggest writing Margaret Miller (Mrs) if you think there might be a misunderstanding.

      Another thing to consider: It’s helpful if a woman adds Mrs, Miss or Ms to her name to make it clear how she prefers to be addressed.

  5. Bhargav Sai says:

    Thank you for this article. I have always wondered about how I could write effective emails that communicate my intentions well to the clients. I have been using “Hi” in my mails at the beginning, because “Dear” is used by no one in my organization. Even my clients who work for very reputable International Organizations don’t use the word “Dear”. Hence, using “Dear” makes me a little uncomfortable.

    Would it be convenient to write “Hi” instead of “Dear” or would you suggest any other word I could use?

    • If you don’t feel comfortable with Dear because no one else uses it, then that’s fine. It’s important to fit in with the culture that your clients are familiar with, I think.

      If you want a level of formality somewhere between Dear and Hi, you could use Hello:

      Hello, Peter [with a first name]
      Hello, Mr Anderson [with a surname].

  6. kerriana clement says:

    I need help on writing a information email but I don’t know how to start or finish on nor how to create on randomly
    thxs

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