How To Write a Formal Email (With Template and Example)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 22 September 2022

Published 16 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Formal emails are important for correspondence with clients, colleagues and management. You can convey professionalism and respect for the recipient by learning how to communicate with a business correspondence. Understanding how to format and write this type of email is an important skill for professionals and can lead to important opportunities in your career. In this article, we discuss how to write an email, reasons for writing one and provide tips on what guidelines to follow when writing.

What is a formal email?

A formal email is an electronic letter for professional communication. These business emails are polite and straightforward. This type of correspondence is often used in professional settings where people don't know each other personally or are writing for business.

Related: How To Start a Professional Letter

What is the correct format?

It's important to write with direct and professional tone as well as to include the proper format for business correspondence. Important elements to consider when writing your email include:

  • Sending address: Use a professional email address when writing emails for work. For example, instead of an email address that uses your nickname, use an email address that includes only your full name, initials and numbers, or a mix of these.

  • Subject: A subject line summarises the email and indicates the purpose you have for writing. A good subject line increases the chances of the email being read and prevents it from being marked as spam.

  • Font: To make your email easy to read and professional in appearance, use Arial, Times New Roman or Calibri as your font. Only use black for your font colour, and choose a font size of 12.

  • Greeting: Use a professional opening such as 'To Whom It May Concern' or 'Dear'. If you know the recipients' name, include this, but if you don't know their name, try to refer to them by their title.

  • Introduction: When writing an email to a new contact, lead with a brief introduction that lets them know who you are. If you have met before, you may mention the last time you spoke or provide a reminder of who you are.

  • Body: The body is typically one or two paragraphs long. If you're contacting someone with more information, consider sending the details as an attachment with an introduction and explanation of the material in the body paragraph.

  • Closing: Include a thoughtful and professional closing, such as 'Thank you for your time', 'Sincerely', 'Thank you' or 'Best regards'.

  • Signature: Sign off with your name and professional title. If you have an email account with a preset signature, ensure that any information contained is professional in tone.

Related: Guidelines for Professional Email Etiquette

Reasons for writing

Common reasons to write a formal email include:

First contact

When you correspond with another professional or a client in a professional setting for the first time, it's appropriate to use this type of email rather than an informal one. It's important to include an introduction of yourself in each email of the first contact. Sometimes you may develop a professional relationship where you are comfortable using a more friendly tone, but the initial interactions can be more formal.

Professional settings

Maintain the standards of business correspondence for all work-related communication. This includes correspondence with a client, colleague or coworker. After building a relationship, you may start to use a more friendly tone, but best practice is to maintain business etiquette regardless of how familiar you are with other professionals.

Related: Key Attributes of Professionalism in the Workplace

Sales pitches

Marketing and advertising professionals may use this type of correspondence to potential customers because it is an effective format to make sales pitches as it's direct and brief. New clients and existing clients appreciate the email being straightforward to save them time. This type of email conveys professionalism and can add to your credibility as a sales representative.

Related: What Are the Most Important Sales Skills?

Job inquiries

When applying for a new job, you may send an email rather than a physical cover letter to express your interest and introduce yourself. With this type of email, you can present yourself professionally and show that you respect the recipient's time. Understanding how to communicate effectively through business emails also shows employers that you have strong communication skills and can represent their company well. This may give you an advantage over other job candidates.

Read more: How to Write a Cover Letter

Apologies

To resolve conflict and maintain healthy professional relationships, you may need to write an apology to a colleague. An email is a good form of communication that helps to apologise respectfully, shows sincerity and documents the communication if needed. The formatting of the email keeps your apology brief, which enables you to take accountability and fulfil the purpose of your email in a short amount of time.

Read more: How To Write an Effective Apology Letter (With Examples)

Termination

When terminating an employee or resigning from your position it's common that you send or receive an email to inform the employee or employer. These types of correspondence need to be formal to remain professional and maintain your reputation as a company or as an employee who may need references. In a termination email, it's important to list the reasons for termination briefly and provide evidence so that they cannot refute your claims. It's also important to be polite and professional so that the separation can be civil.

Resignation letters follow similar rules. Try to explain why you are leaving the company and try not to be negative in your approach.

Related: How To Write a Short Notice Letter of Resignation (With Tips and Examples)

Tips for writing in business

Here are some tips to help guide you when writing an email to a client, colleague or manager:

  • Use a professional tone: Unless you have established a casual relationship with the recipient of your email, using a casual tone can be perceived as unprofessional. Try to use language that is warm but not too familiar, and be straightforward.

  • Use simple language: Use words and phrasing that the recipient can understand. For example, if you're writing to a colleague, you can use industry-specific terms, but when writing to a client, avoid language that they may not be familiar with that could confuse them.

  • Proofread your email: Most modern email servers, both on computers or mobile devices, can spell check and grammar check your writing. It's still a good practice to re-read your email to ensure that your message is clear and that there aren't mistakes that could appear unprofessional.

  • Write in complete sentences: When writing any correspondence for business, use complete sentences to appear professional. Complete sentences can also make a better impression than incomplete sentences.

  • Keep it brief: An important aspect of this form of communication is that it's brief. Sometimes you may want to add details to avoid confusion, but it's better to schedule a meeting if you feel you need to elaborate more on the subject.

  • Provide value: Ensure that your email is informative and offers value to the recipient.

Formal email template

When writing, it can help to have a template to guide you if you are new to writing formally. You can use this template for your next work email:

Subject: [Brief summary of the contents of the email]

Greetings [Recipient's name or professional title],

My name is [your name], and I am [explanation of the capacity in which you are reaching out to them.]

[A brief description of the reason you are emailing, kept to one or two short paragraphs if possible.]

Thank you for your time,

[Your name]

[Your professional contact information]

Example of a formal email

Here's an example using the provided template:

Subject: New Graphic Design Templates

Dear Mrs Payne,

My name is Harry Beckett, and I'm a graphic designer at Tell Tale Designs. It's my understanding that you have purchased services from Tell Tale Designs before, so I wanted to write to you about our new offers.

We are preparing invitation templates with unique designs for special occasions that our clients can buy and input their own information and personalise how they choose. We are interested in working with event planners to expand our reach and deliver this product to help more customers. I'd love to talk with you about sending samples of invitation templates to offer your clients at Payne Plans.

Please let me know if you'd like any more information.

Thank you for your time and for using Tell Tale Designs services,

Harry Beckett

012345 222 333

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