Here is a step - wise guide to write formal emails:
1. Formatting: Before you start writing, make sure that basics like font size and style are uniformly set across the entire text.
For a formal email, it is advisable to keep things conservative, with fonts like: Arial, Helvetica, Calibri, Verdana and Times New Roman. Avoid decorative fonts like Comic Sans or Old English.
Write your email in a legible font size, such as 12 point type. 14 - 16 point type is more than enough for your headings to stand out.
Avoid special styles like italics, highlighting, or multicolored fonts unless they are warranted by the content and purpose of the email.
Do not use all caps. These make it seem like you are shouting at the recipient.
Recommended formatting - Headings: Bold; Body text: Normal.
Do not use images/photographs unless you really need to.
Incorrect Sample: EVERYONE COME FOR THE THE MEETING. IT IS SCHEDULED at 5:30 at The conference Hall.
Correct Sample: The meeting is scheduled at 5:30 pm at the Conference hall.
2. Subject: The subject line is what the reader sees in their inbox. If the subject line is misleading or missing information, your email may not get read. The message may even be sent to spam. Therefore:
Use a short and accurate subject line. Use keywords in the subject line that suggest exactly what you are writing about, in just a few words. For example, instead of writing “Will not be able to attend office on 4th and 5th of May”, You can write “Leave Application”.
If applying for a job for example, subjects like, ‘Resume’, ‘Priya Resume’ are vague. These don’t give a feeling of professionalism. Instead a subject like ‘Application for Java developer (Job Code: 1234) Sunil Sharma’ is precise, professional and has least chances of getting overlooked.
Sample incorrect subject line: Come one, Come all at the student meeting.
Sample correct subject line: Student Meeting: December 5th, 9:30 a. m.
3. Salutation/Greeting: This is the part of the email where someone is addressed. Addressing the recipient by name (if known) is preferred. Include the person's title (Mr. , Mrs. , Ms. , Dr. , etc. ) with their last name, followed by a comma or a colon. For example: Dear Mr. Khurana, Dear Ms. Smith, etc.
You can precede the salutation with "Dear. . . " if you like. This does not mean you will write “Hey Dear!” That’s informal. Also using a comma is more appropriate than using an exclamation mark. So you could write “Dear Mr. Sharma” / “Dear students”, etc.
If you don't know the name of the person you're writing to, use a salutation like “Dear Sir/Madam, ” “Dear Sir or Madam, ” not “To whom it may concern. ” We don’t use greeting like Hey Pooja Sharma Madam!, Hi My Dear, Hello Dinesh Sir. Always remember we do not use the first name or full names in formal salutations. Instead use: “Dear Ma’am”, “Dear Ms. Jain, ”, “Dear Mr. Singh, ”.
Do not use “Hello, ” “Hey, ” “Hi, ” or other informal salutations.
Introduce yourself in the first paragraph (if necessary). If you are writing to someone you don't have an existing relationship with, such as a new customer, hiring manager, or government official, tell them who you are and why you are writing.
Do this in the first sentence or two of your email. For example, when writing to a potential employer, you might say: "My name is Ravi Sharma. I'm contacting you to apply for the administrative assistant position listed on CareerXYZ. com. " or “I am Manisha Shah, and I am writing to apply for the post of a receptionist at your hotel. I saw the vacancy posted on naukri. com, and would like to express my keen interest in applying for the same. ”
If you are writing to place an order, you may say: “I am, Manoj Pandey, the Head of Production at Wellness Medicos. I wanted to place an order for 1000 plastic sheets for packaging. ” instead of giving the full picture like, “I am Manoj Pandey. A junior staff member informed me today that we were out of plastic packaging sheets. So, I thought to place an order…”
5. Body/Core Message: Once you’ve introduced yourself and the general reason you’re writing, you can follow up with the body of your email. Put the most important content near the top. This respects your recipient’s time, and makes the purpose of your email clear.
When writing to a government official, for instance, you might start by saying: "My name is Pooja Shah. I obtained your email address from the XYZ Development Authority website. I am writing to complain about the condition of roads in my locality. "
Get to the point. For a formal email, it’s ok to be direct, as long as you are polite. Beating around the bush will only lose your reader and make it harder to figure out what you want or need from them.
If your email is relatively lengthy, break it up into short paragraphs. Insert a line break between each paragraph instead of indenting.
Use complete sentences and polite phrasing. Avoid things like: Slang, Unnecessary contractions, Emoticons and emojis, Profanity and Jokes. If you were to complain about the quantity of the products received, you can politely say, “I want to bring to your notice that we had asked for 10, 000 pieces of leather belts but we have received only 5000. Kindly look into the matter. ” It would not make sense to write “Products received are wrong. ❌❌Ya’ll sent INC number of pieces :( Send 5000 more pieces of leather belts asap. ” This sounds impolite and has incorrect contractions like INC (for incorrect) and ya’ll (for you all). These are not universal and may not be understood by the recipient. Emoticons and symbols make the message look informal.
6. Closing remark: Before you end your email, it’s polite to thank your reader and add some polite closing remarks. You might start with “Thank you for your patience and cooperation” or “Thank you for your consideration” and then follow up with, “If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to let me know” and “I look forward to hearing from you”.
7. Sign off/Signature: How you end a formal email is equally important. Since the email closing is the last thing your recipient looks at, your email closing can leave a lasting impression. A good formal email closing also reminds the reader who you are since it should include your full name, contact information, and title (if appropriate). As with salutations, there are a variety of closings that are acceptable in formal emails. Examples of potential closings include:
"Yours sincerely, "
A complete signature block looks like this:
[Email address goes here]
[Phone number goes here]
It is vague to end an email without giving the recipient the idea about who the sender is. For example, following is an informal and incomplete signature block:
8. Include necessary attachments: If you need to include any attachments, make sure to mention them in the body of the email to let the recipient know that they are included. Be courteous by trying to keep the number of attachments and their file size down, and by using common or widely compatible file types. For example, include a note like “I am attaching a copy of my resume and portfolio, in PDF format. ” Writing “Enclosed PDF and doc” is again a little vague as it does not specify what the PDF and doc is about.
9. Proofread your message: Check the message for content, spelling, and grammatical errors. Don’t just rely on your email service’s spelling or grammar checker. Reading your email aloud or asking someone to proofread it is a great way to catch any typos, mistakes, or unclear phrases.
10. Type recipient's email - id: Once you’re certain that your message is ready to be sent, type the email id of your recipient and CC, BCC to the concerned people. Make sure that all the business communication takes place from your professional id and not the personal one.
Since, most of the business communication these days takes place through emails, it’s important to make a good impression via them. Keep these pointers in mind every time you write a formal email and you’re good to go.
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