How to Write a Formal Email in 7 Steps (With Tips)
It's common for professionals to send formal emails when reaching out to colleagues or communicating with management. These emails maintain a professional tone while conveying important details about business operations. Learning how to write an email that has a formal tone may help you strengthen your written communication skills. In this article, we discuss what a formal email is and provide a list of steps for how to write a formal email.
What is a formal email?
A formal email is a message that professionals can use when conducting business operations. These types of emails are typically shorter in length. They are often one to two paragraphs long. Formal emails allow you to communicate essential information clearly and concisely. Many workplaces use these emails to maintain a professional work environment.
How to write a formal email
Here are five steps that can help you craft a formal email:
1. Identify your goal
Before you write an email, first ask yourself what you want the recipient to do after they've read it. This allows you to understand what content your email can include, like if you are sending the recipient information or asking them to complete an action. Once you've determined the purpose of your email, you can ensure everything you include in your message supports this action.
For example, if you want the recipient to review a report you've attached, let them know what the report is, why you need them to review it, what sort of feedback you need and when you need the task completed.
2. Create a subject line
To begin your email, create a subject line that provides a brief summary of the contents of the message. This allows the recipient to have insight into what the email is about, so they can prioritise the email accordingly. For example, if you send an email to a colleague about an important project proposal, then they may make it a priority to read the email as soon as possible.
3. Add salutations
The salutation is the opening of your email. Include a greeting that addresses the recipient. Generally, it's useful to include their name in the greeting to personalise the message. Here are some examples of formal email salutations:
Hi Mr Smith
Dear Ms Hall
4. State the key message of the email
After your salutations, include an opening sentence that provides information about the key message of the email. This provides the recipient with context for the rest of the email. For example, if you are emailing a colleague about an upcoming company event, open the email with a sentence that includes the name and date of the event.
Here are some examples of opening lines:
I am emailing today to let you know about an upcoming project proposal that is due on [date]
I am writing to ask you about your attendance at the upcoming company event on [date] at [time]
I am writing to get your permission to follow up on [assignment name].
5. Include relevant information
Upon stating your reason for the email, include relevant details. You might include details about why the information is important, or you may further explain the key points of the email. For example, if you email a colleague to invite them to a company seminar, you might include details about the seminar's purpose and information about what materials your co-worker can bring to the seminar.
6. Provide instructions
If necessary, provide instructions for the recipient to follow up on after receiving the email. Be sure to provide clear, actionable instructions that are easy for the recipient to understand.
Here are some examples of instructions in a formal email:
please respond to this email regarding your attendance at the company conference
please finish the draft of the project proposal and submit it to me by Tuesday
please reach out to your clients to let them know that our company is closed on 19 June
complete the survey attached to this email by 20 May.
7. Include a closing
In the closing of your email, thank the recipient for their time and encourage them to reach out to you with questions or for further information. Include a professional closing sentiment. Here are some examples of formal closings for an email:
Tips for writing emails that are formal
Here are some tips to consider when sending an email with a formal tone:
Remember to follow up
Most people receive several emails per day, so they might miss or forget to respond to your message. If the recipient hasn't replied within two working days, consider reaching back out with a friendly follow-up email.
In your follow-up email, state that you want to make sure they received your email, and include a brief summary of the content of the previous email. Be sure to state that you can resend the email if they did not receive the first one.
Consider your audience
When you compose an email message, make sure your tone matches your audience. For example, if you're emailing a business executive you've never met, keep the email polished and free of any jokes or informalities. On the other hand, if you're emailing a colleague with whom you have a good relationship, you might use a less formal, more friendly approach.
Proofread your email
An error-free email demonstrates diligence and professionalism. Before you send an email, take a moment to check for any spelling, grammar or syntax errors. Also, double-check to ensure you've included any attachments you may have referenced in your message. If it is an important email to critical stakeholders, you might ask your direct supervisor or a trusted colleague to read over it before you send it.
Keep it concise
Your audience might have little time to read through your email, so make it as brief as possible without leaving out key information. Try not to address too many subjects at once as this can make your message lengthy, challenging to read and difficult to take action on.
When editing your email, take out any information that's irrelevant to the topic you're addressing. Use short, simple sentences by removing filler words and extraneous information. This will make your note shorter and easier to read.
Use proper etiquette
Include a courteous greeting and closing statement to sound friendly and polite. Additionally, be considerate of the recipient and their time. For example, unless it's an emergency, avoid emailing a contact asking for something after-hours or while they're on leave.
Formal email templates
Here are some templates for professional emails that you may use when crafting your own:
Here is an email template when providing information:
Subject: [Brief details relevant to email's content]
Dear [recipient name],
I am emailing today to let you know about [description of information]. Along with this, it's important to keep in mind that [relevant detail] and [relevant detail].
Upon receiving this email, please [description of instructions] by [date].
Thank you for your time in reviewing this email. Please reach out to me with questions or for further details about [topic].
Here is a template for an email that asks a question:
Subject: [Relevant details to email's content]
Dear [recipient name],
I am emailing today to inquire about [question]. This is important because [reason]. Please respond to this email with information about [detail].
Thank you very much for your time and I look forward to hearing back from you. Please reach out to me for further details regarding [topic].
Formal email examples
Here are some examples of emails that maintain a formal tone:
Here is an example of an email that provides information about a project proposal:
Subject: Change in project proposal due date
Dear Ms Smith,
I am emailing today to let you know about a change in the research project's due date. The research project is now due on June 20, instead of the original due date of May 18. Along with this, it's important to keep in mind that the rest of the project's instructions remain the same.
Upon receiving this email, please respond so that I can ensure you received this email about the change in a timely manner.
Thank you for your time in reviewing this email. Please reach out to me with questions or for further details about the change.
Here is an example of an email that asks a question about an employee's attendance at an upcoming event:
Subject: Attendance at the company anniversary
I am emailing today to inquire about your attendance at the company's 20th anniversary on 5 May. This is important because the party planning committee would like to have an estimate of the number of attendees. Please respond to this email with information about your attendance, along with the number of guests you plan on bringing.
Thank you very much for your time and I look forward to hearing back from you. Please reach out to me for further details regarding the event.
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