Email communication

Writing styles Descriptive Opinion-based Creative Email communication

Emails sent in an academic/workplace context should be written with attention and purpose. They should not be too casual in tone or style and should never be written like a text message to a friend. Formal, professional emails will convey a feeling of respect from the sender to the recipient of the email:

  • Be clear and concise with no unnecessary information.
  • Phrase your ideas carefully since e-mails can be easily misread.

Without hearing your voice and seeing your body-language, the tone of the email your write can be difficult for the person you communicate with to interpret it. Therefore, it is always best to avoid sarcasm or humour.


Presentation: Writing Effective Emails
Email worksheet 01
Email worksheet 02


Video: “5 useful email expressions”

Source: engVid. (2012) 5 useful email expressions. Retrieved from


Formal and informal vocabulary

Formal emails use different vocabulary to informal emails:

Thank you Thanks
I would like to apologise for … Sorry for …
I would appreciate it if you … Can you …
Would you happen to know … ? Do you know … ?
Unfortunately, I will not be able to … I can’t …


Formal and informal emails

We write informally when we communicate with our friends and family via email. In these cases, (1) accuracy and grammar (spelling and punctuation) are not particularly important (2), you can make up your own rules and (3) you can use Emojis. For example:

Hi Anne,
I miss you so much! Can’t wait to see you on Friday!! We haven’t hung out in so long! I miss my bestie 2 much! Maybe we can chill in front of Netfix or W3.
Love ya,

We typically write in a formal style when communicating with a professor, a work colleague or any other official person. With such communications it is important to be (1) professional in tone and approach and (2) to use accurate grammar, punctuation, and spelling. For example:

Dear Professor Brown,
Unfortunately I was unable to attend class today due to a doctor’s appointment. When you have a moment, could you please let me know what I missed and what homework I need to have completed for this coming Thursday’s class?
Thank you,
Julie Smith
Major: Philosophy
ID: 201654321
College of Social Sciences, University of London

Structure of a formal email

Typically a formal email will comprise of four parts which are (1) a salutation – a greeting of some kind (2), the body content (3) a closing statement and (4) a signature. Each of these four elements are now discussed:


The salutation of a formal email is similar to the salutation of a letter. When writing to someone you do not know by name, you put “To Whom it May Concern.” When applying for a job, you would address the person by, “Dear Hiring Manager.” If you do know the recipient’s name, you put “Dear Mr./Ms. Smith.” For a formal salutation, you should not use the recipient’s first name or the informal greetings “Hello” or “Hey.”

Content paragraph/s:

It is important to remember that an email needs to be concise. The first sentence, known as the opening sentence, can be a greeting if the situation allows it.

  • I hope all is well with you.
  • Thank you for your prompt response.

However, for most formal emails it is best to get straight to the point. Depending on the subject, you should have a maximum of four paragraphs and each paragraph should contain a single
point. It is also important to provide questions in order to prompt a response. At the end of your last paragraph you should provide a “thank you” or “call to action” depending on the subject of your email.

  • Thank you for your assistance with …
  • Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing back from you.
  • Please feel free to email me if you have any questions.
  • I would appreciate it if this could be taken care of promptly.


Like the salutation, the closing of a formal email can be the same as the closing to a letter. However, unlike the salutation, there are more options for a closing.

  • Thank you,
  • Best regards,
  • Yours Sincerely,
  • Yours,


The closing is then followed by your full name. It is also beneficial to add your job position (if applicable) and any other contact/identification details. For eample:

Yours sincerely,
Julie Smith
Major: Philosophy
ID: 201654321
College of Social Sciences, University of London


General tips:

  • Use formal vocabulary and sentence structure (Do NOT use slang.)
  • Do NOT use contractions (For example: don’t, haven’t, I’m, isn’t.)
  • Do NOT write in all capital letters (This is equivalent to shouting.)
  • Proofread the email at least once (twice if it is particularly important).