Proper Formal Emails Structure: Best Practices & Examples
Welcome to our comprehensive guide on formal email writing. With the digital age well and truly upon us, email has become a primary means of communication, especially in the professional sphere. This blog post will equip you with best practices and templates for writing emails that get results. It’s worth your time because mastering the art of email writing can help you build strong professional relationships, and make a lasting impression on your clients, colleagues, and superiors.
What is a Formal Email?
A formal email is a type of professional email used in business, academic, and other formal settings. It adheres to a certain structure and employs a specific style and tone that is considerably more formal than an informal or casual email.
When we compare formal emails to informal emails, there are several noticeable differences. Here’s a quick rundown:
- Language: Formal emails use professional, respectful language, complete sentences, and proper grammar. They avoid slang, contractions, and colloquial phrases. On the other hand, informal emails may use colloquial language, contractions, and even slang, as they are usually sent to people we know well and have an informal relationship with.
- Structure: Formal emails follow a structured format with a clear beginning (salutation), middle (email body), and end (closing and email signature). Informal emails can be more free-form and lack the rigid structure of formal emails.
- Purpose: Formal emails are generally sent for professional reasons, like work updates, meeting requests, or job applications. Informal emails, conversely, are often sent for personal reasons, like staying in touch with friends or sending updates about personal life.
- Tone: Formal emails maintain a respectful, serious, and polite tone throughout. Informal emails can be much more relaxed and personal, reflecting the relationship between the sender and the recipient.
As for the types of formal emails, there are several, each serving a different purpose. Here are a few common ones:
- Business Correspondence: These are emails sent for various business-related purposes, like project updates, meeting requests, or task delegation.
- Job Applications: These emails typically include a cover letter and resume, sent to a potential employer expressing interest in a job opening.
- Professional Inquiries: These are sent to seek professional advice or ask business-related questions, like inquiries to suppliers or service providers.
- Customer Service Emails: Businesses send these to customers to provide support, answer queries, or inform about products or services.
- Acknowledgment Emails: These are sent to confirm the receipt of a document, package, or job application, and to inform the sender that the necessary action will be taken.
Understanding the distinction between formal and informal emails, as well as the different types of formal emails, can help you make sure your email fits the context and achieves its intended purpose.
Understanding the Structure of a Professional Email
A professional email, much like a formal letter, has a particular structure that helps convey the message clearly and respectfully. Let’s break down the different elements of a professional email structure:
1. Sender Information: This refers to the sender’s email address, which should ideally be a professional one, usually consisting of your full name or a variation of it. Using a professional email address not only enhances your credibility but also prevents your email from ending up in the recipient’s spam folder.
2. Subject Line: An important part of a formal email is the subject line. It’s the first thing that the recipient sees and should concisely reflect the content of the email. A good subject line is short, specific, and informative, offering the recipient a reason to open your email. For example, instead of “Meeting,” use “Proposal for Marketing Team Meeting on July 20.”
3. Salutation or Greeting: This is where you address the recipient. If you know their name, use it along with a formal greeting such as “Dear Mr. Johnson” or “Dear Dr. Adams.” If you are unsure of the recipient’s name, use a general yet respectful greeting like “Dear Sir/Madam” or “To whom it may concern.”
4. Email Body: The body of the email is where you communicate your main message. Start by clearly stating the purpose of your email. This could be an introduction, a question, a request, or information you want to relay. Remember to be concise, clear, and formal. It’s also recommended to break up the text into short, readable paragraphs rather than having a single chunk of text.
5. Closing and Sign-Off: Just as important as the salutation, the sign-off is where you conclude your email. Use a professional closing such as “Kind regards,” “Best,” or “Sincerely.” Make sure to follow the sign-off with your full name. If you are sending a business email, include your title, organization name, and contact details.
6. Email Signature: This is a crucial part of professional email etiquette. Your email signature should include your full name, your job title, your organization’s name, and your contact details. The inclusion of an email signature not only adds a professional touch but also makes it easier for the recipient to get in touch with you.
7. Attachments (if applicable): If you have any documents or files to send with your email, make sure to attach them. Be sure to mention these attachments within the body of your email so that the recipient knows to look for them.
8. CC and BCC (if applicable): If you are sending the email to more than one person, you can use the ‘Cc’ (carbon copy) or ‘Bcc’ (blind carbon copy) fields. The recipients added in the ‘Cc’ field will be visible to all other recipients, while those added in the ‘Bcc’ field will be hidden.
Remember, a professional email should be easy to read, so use a standard, clear fonts like Times New Roman or Arial, keep your paragraphs short and to the point, and use bullet points or numbering for lists. The goal is to make the recipient’s job of understanding and responding to your email as easy as possible. With these formal email format guidelines in mind, you’ll be well on your way to writing professional emails that make a better impression.
The Structure of the Body of a Professional Email
The body of the email is the heart of your communication – it’s where you get to express your thoughts, make your requests, or share your information. When writing the body of a professional email, it’s essential to maintain a clear structure, stay concise, and use a polite and formal tone. Here’s how you can structure the body of a professional email:
1. Introduction: Start by introducing yourself if the recipient doesn’t know you, or if it’s the first time you’re contacting them. This can be as simple as “My name is [Your Name], and I am [your position] at [your company].”
2. Statement of Purpose: After the introduction, state the purpose of your email. Why are you writing to them? Are you responding to a previous email, following up on a meeting, or making a request? Get straight to the point. For instance, “I am writing to inquire about…” or “I am reaching out to discuss…”.
3. Main Content: Depending on the purpose of your email, this part can vary in length and content. If you’re making a request, make it clear and provide sufficient details. If you’re providing information, make sure it’s well-structured and easy to follow. If you’re writing a lot, consider breaking up the text into shorter paragraphs or using bullet points for easier reading.
4. Conclusion or Call to Action: If you want the recipient to do something, like reply, call, or complete a task, make it clear in this part. If you’re waiting for a response, you can say something like “I look forward to hearing from you,” or “Please let me know if you have any questions.”
5. Appreciation: Regardless of the purpose of the email, it’s good practice to thank the recipient for their time. A simple “Thank you for your time,” or “Thank you for considering my request” can make a huge difference in the tone of your email.
Each section of the email body should transition smoothly into the next. Always aim to keep your language professional, your tone respectful, and your points concise and clear. With this structure as a guide, you should be able to create professional email bodies that effectively convey your message.
Examples of Properly Structured Business Emails
Subject: Request for Information About Your Graphic Design Services
Dear Mr. Smith,
My name is John Doe, and I’m the marketing manager at XYZ Corporation. I came across your graphic design portfolio online and was highly impressed.
I’m writing to inquire about your rates and availability for a potential project. We’re planning a marketing campaign next month and are considering outsourcing our graphic design needs.
The campaign will involve designing web banners, social media posts, and a few print materials. Could you please provide an estimate for these services?
Thank you for your time, and I look forward to your response.
Marketing Manager, XYZ Corporation
Subject: Meeting Request for Project Update on July 25
I hope this email finds you well. I am writing to schedule a meeting on Monday, July 25, at 10:00 AM to discuss the progress of our current project.
The meeting agenda will include project updates from each department, identification of any challenges, and setting goals for the next phase. Please prepare a brief report on your team’s progress and any important issues you would like to discuss.
Please confirm your availability for this meeting or suggest an alternative date or time. Thank you for your cooperation.
Project Manager, ABC Inc.
Subject: Rescheduling Tuesday’s Client Meeting
Dear Mr. Lopez,
I hope this email finds you well. Due to an unforeseen scheduling conflict, I must reschedule our planned meeting for Tuesday, August 2nd.
Would you be available to meet at the same time on Wednesday, August 3rd, instead? Please let me know if this date works for you, or if you prefer a different day.
I apologize for any inconvenience caused and appreciate your understanding. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Account Manager, XYZ Company
Subject: Invitation to the Annual Company Gala
We are excited to announce our Annual Company Gala to be held on Saturday, December 10, 2023, at the City Convention Center. The event starts at 7:00 PM and will include dinner, live entertainment, and an awards ceremony.
Please confirm your attendance by November 25 so that we can make necessary arrangements. Should you have any dietary restrictions, kindly inform us in advance.
We look forward to celebrating with you!
Human Resources Department
Subject: Software Update Required for All Employees
Please note that a mandatory software update for the CRM system will take place this Friday, August 5th, starting at 6:00 PM. The update will take approximately two hours, during which the system will be unavailable.
We highly recommend that you save any unfinished work and log off the system before the update begins. If you face any issues after the update, please contact the IT department.
Thank you for your cooperation.
IT Manager, DEF Corporation
Examples of Poorly Structured Business Emails
Subject: Some stuff to be done urgently!!!!!!!
I was just talking to Mike, you know, Mike from the other floor, and he told me that there’s some big stuff coming up and we need to start on it right away. He didn’t tell me exactly what it is, just that it’s really important. Anyway, I guess we need your stuff for this thing. I mean, you know what your stuff is right? So, how much of it can we get?
Thanks and stuff,
Flaws: The email lacks specificity and professionalism. It’s unclear what “stuff” John is referring to, who Mike is, and why the task is urgent. The tone is informal, making it inappropriate for a business email.
Subject: Time for a good old-fashioned meeting, folks!
Hello, Team of the Century,
So, I was thinking, it’s been a while since we had a meeting, hasn’t it? We all love meetings, right? That’s why we work in an office! So, I figured, why not have one now? Well, not right now, but you know, soon. And in this meeting, we’ll talk about stuff. You know, all that stuff we usually talk about. Not sure when it will be yet, but I’ll let you guys know. Keep your schedules open!
Hasta la vista,
Flaws: The email is casual and lacks concrete information. It’s unclear what the meeting is about and when it will be held. The playful tone, while not inappropriate in all contexts, is not suitable for communicating important information like a meeting.
So, you know that meeting we were supposed to have on Tuesday, right? Yeah, well, I don’t think I can make it. So, I figured, why not do it on Thursday instead? I mean, who needs Tuesdays, am I right? Anyway, let me know if that works. Or not. I mean, we can also do Friday. Or maybe next week?
Flaws: While Sam does inform the recipients about the meeting’s rescheduling, the email lacks professionalism. The subject line is overly casual and too long, and the content of the email does not clearly state the new proposed time for the meeting. Also, Sam does not apologize for the inconvenience caused by the rescheduling, which can come across as disrespectful.
Subject: Hi there!! Party Time!!
It’s that time of year again. You know, the one where we all get dressed up and pretend we’re at the Oscars? Yep, you guessed it, it’s the Annual Company Gala! This year, we’re going to have it at that place downtown, you know, the one next to that coffee shop? Anyway, it’s going to be on one of the Saturdays in December, I think. Not sure which one. I’ll have to get back to you on that.
Can’t wait to see you there,
Flaws: This email lacks crucial details about the event. Tom doesn’t specify the date or the exact location of the Gala. Also, the tone is far too casual for a company-wide communication about a formal event.
Subject: Problem with the thingy…
So, I was trying to do my thing on the CRM system, and it started acting all weird. Like, it’s not letting me do the stuff I usually do. I don’t know what’s wrong, but it’s super annoying. Can one of you IT wizards fix it?
Flaws: Tara’s email lacks specifics about the problem she’s experiencing. Instead of describing the issue in detail, she uses vague terms like “thingy” and “stuff.” Her casual tone and sign-off (“Kthxbai”) are also unprofessional.