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 with 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]
formal (to several male colleagues)
Dear All
formal (to several colleagues)
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.

If you’re interested in learning more about writing business emails, check out our Business Correspondence e-book here.

Stuart is an English teacher and runs the Speakspeak website. He currently lives in Prague and has been teaching for over 20 years. Follow Stuart and contact him by subscribing to his monthly newsletter.


  1. Peter - February 27, 2012, 6:39 pm Reply

    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. Carla - February 23, 2014, 6:31 pm Reply

    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.

    • Stuart Cook - February 23, 2014, 9:49 pm Reply

      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.

      • Carla - February 24, 2014, 5:57 pm Reply


  3. leah - March 27, 2014, 1:46 pm Reply

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

    • Stuart Cook - March 28, 2014, 4:55 pm Reply

      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. Margaret - April 29, 2014, 11:49 am Reply

    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.

    • Stuart Cook - April 29, 2014, 11:15 pm 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 - June 30, 2014, 8:24 am Reply

    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?

    • Stuart Cook - June 30, 2014, 10:09 am Reply

      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 - August 20, 2014, 12:32 am Reply

    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

  7. meriem - December 7, 2014, 3:11 pm Reply

    It’s a good idea because in my work we deal with customers and suppliers for that i need to learn the basis of a good business email both in French & English. please, send it to me via my e-mail.

  8. anniesophia - December 10, 2014, 8:26 am Reply

    I am a translator, so I must write many letters to the sponsors, parents and childrens for the gifts, so i want to know how to start the letter and end it.

  9. Liudmila - February 11, 2015, 9:07 pm Reply

    Dear Stuart, could you please comment on a salutation like this “dear colleagues”, “hello, colleagues” or simply “Colleagues” in terms of authenticity and implications of hierachy (who’s writing to whom). In the company where I teach it’s a very sensitive issue. Thanks!

    • Stuart Cook - February 11, 2015, 11:37 pm Reply

      Hi, Lludmila
      It’s hard to comment without knowing the content of the email. The salutation may change depending on whether the email is congratulatory, has a stern tone, gives bad news, etc. Dear colleagues is quite neutral, I think (for a boss writing to his team), whereas he may write To all employees/colleagues when writing more serious news.

      • Liudmila - February 12, 2015, 5:43 pm Reply

        What about “Hello colleagues” written by an employee to several recepients including his immediate manager, a representative of their customer and a couple of team members of the same status on the project? To give you a clearer idea, it’s IT sphere i’m concerned about. In general, project problems are discussed, solutions suggested, etc…

        • Stuart Cook - February 15, 2015, 11:54 pm Reply

          Because a customer is one of the recipients, I’d prefer to use Dear colleagues, as it’s slightly more formal than hello. It’s subjective, however.

  10. Lomo Senoamadi - February 23, 2015, 3:48 pm Reply

    I am a supplier I want to send targeted clients emails asking for a meeting to do presentations. I want to know how to start the letter and end it

    • Stuart Cook - February 24, 2015, 9:51 am Reply

      Try Good morning/Good afternoon followed by the name of the recipient. If you don’t know their name, simply write Good morning or Good afternoon.

  11. Arti Surat - January 6, 2016, 10:27 am Reply

    In your introduction you use the period and the comma (once each) outside the quotation marks. In just about every related article on this site, the rule for American usage is stated as having the comma and the period within the quotation marks. [end quote]

    As you noted, Jimmie, that is the rule for American usage. However, clues in this article reveal the writer was not necessarily writing first and foremost to Americans … e.g. spelling: “organisation” vs organization (American spelling). Related, non-American practice is to put the period outside the ending quotation marks. This is something I learned when I left the good ol’ USofA for a couple years’

  12. Ruth Snowsill - January 14, 2016, 9:13 am Reply

    I am looking for a course for a colleague who is being performance managed regarding her e-mail writing. I like the format of your site and will see if it helps

  13. tiffany - October 27, 2016, 4:55 pm Reply

    Do we need to include comma when writing “Dear Colleagues” in formal business email?

    • Stuart Cook - October 27, 2016, 8:44 pm Reply

      Using a comma here is personal choice; I don’t. I’d also use a lower-case ‘c’ for colleagues.

  14. janga - August 28, 2017, 5:01 pm Reply

    Can write ‘HI’ to my boss while writing the email?

  15. NADER - December 26, 2017, 10:03 am Reply

    is it correct to start an e mail with ” DEARS ” ?.

    • Stuart Cook - January 8, 2018, 9:01 pm Reply

      No, it isn’t used.

      • Eric Mead - January 22, 2018, 7:13 pm Reply

        Is “Gentlemen” appropriate when the recipient is an unknown male or female? For example, I sent an email to a generic dept at a university not knowing who would respond. My wife tells me my address was outdated and sexist!??

  16. LucyGoosey - April 6, 2018, 2:21 am Reply

    Often I see emails like this: “Hi Jenny” or “Hello all,” both of which are missing a direct address comma. Almost everyone omits the direct address comma, and I was wondering if I am right to continue using it even though others have chosen to abandon this grammar rule?


    • Stuart Cook - April 12, 2018, 2:44 pm Reply

      When using “hi” or “hello” I also prefer to use a comma. Yes, we’re in the minority, but I don’t consider it incorrect just because it’s less common.

  17. Mustafa - April 12, 2018, 9:08 am Reply

    what about
    Dear Respected colleagues

  18. Zuzana - April 30, 2018, 7:56 am Reply

    Is possible to open an email by Dear business partners? Thank you for answering.

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