Writing a Formal Email : Formatting & Preparation Skills

Writing a formal email can seem like a daunting task since email is so often used for personal and informal purposes. If you need to write an email to a teacher, boss, business contact, government agency, or other recipients that require formality, just follow a few simple guidelines.

Keep your message clear and to the point, and follow expectations for style, tone, and formatting. Finally, proofread and review the content of your email before sending it.

Steps for Writing a Formal Email

  • Formatting Your Email
  • Writing Your Message
  • Preparing to Send
write a formal email

Formatting Your Email

Always work through a professional email address. Ideally, email address should be a variation of the real name, not a username or nickname. Use periods, hyphens, or underscores to secure an email address.

For instance, bond_james007@theemail.com will seem unprofessional. james.cort.server@theemail.com, however, is suitable.

Use a professional font. Most email services allow us to write in different fonts and text styles. Keep things conservative for a formal email. Use fonts like Times New Roman and Arial. Avoid decorative fonts like Comic Sans or Old English. Write an email in font size, e.g., 12 point type. Avoid italics, highlighting, or multicoloured fonts. Do not use all caps unless you are shouting at the recipient.

write a formal email

Use a short and accurate subject. Use keywords that suggest precisely what is there in the whole mail. This ensures no overlooking of email by the receiver. It should not be too vague to look like unimportant.

Use subjects like Schedule, Guest List, Lunch Requests, and Meeting Overview with the primary topic and specific date.

Writing Your Message

Use a proper salutation. Always open a formal email with a greeting. Address the recipient by name while writing a formal email. You may add Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr., etc. with their last name, followed by a comma. If the recipient is a long time associate you can start with “Dear…”.

Introduce yourself (if necessary). If you are writing to someone with whom you are a first-timer, or don’t have a pre-existing relation, maybe a new customer, PR manager, or clerk of a company, you must initiate by telling them who you are and the reason you are writing to them. 

write a formal email

For example: “My name is Smith James. I’m contacting you to apply for the executive assistant position published in CareerForAll.com.”

Prioritize the information. Place the most relevant content near the top in the body of the email to respect the recipient’s time and making the purpose of the email clear as soon as possible.

Speedily get to the point. It’s good to be direct while writing a formal email, until it is polite. Beating around the bush is not the reader wants and is always harder to figure out what you need to convey.

It is much clearer to write like: “This is Derek Johnson. I’m a student in your PHY 198 class, and I’m writing for the different exam time situation.”

Keep it brief. There’s no right length or wrong length of the email. However, it is good to keep an email equal to a screen length. If email is relatively longer, try to make relevant short paragraphs. Insert a line break instead of indenting.

Use formal language. Regular emails are written for professional business. So, to give a good impression, always use polite phrasing and complete sentences. Avoid slang, contractions, emojis, profanity and any sort of joke.

Give proper closing to the formal email. Like salutations, there are different acceptable closings for formal emails. Ensure follow up with full name and job title while writing a formal mail. Potential ends are, “Yours sincerely,” “Yours cordially,” “Respectfully,” “Best,” “Your student,” etc.

write a formal email

Preparing to Send

Include necessary attachments. Ensure mentioning attachments in the body of the email so that the recipient gets a hint to check it, too. Be courteous. Try attachments and file size as small. Use commonly compatible file types for attachments, unless you know that the recipient has the font or file type, you are posting.

Proofread content, spelling, and grammar. Don’t email until you check spelling or grammar. Read email aloud or ask someone to proofread it. Check for any typos, mistakes, or unclear phrases.

Email should not contain any sensitive information. Email is not a secure communication system. Always keep in mind that email servers can be hacked. The recipient might intentionally or unintentionally share information. So, better to avoid sending passwords, account numbers thru an email.