Character references are often in support of applications, so it’s important you know how to write a character reference in the right way.
In the modern world, the ability to communicate effectively over email is an essential skill to have, both in the business world and in our personal lives. When it comes to writing an email for more formal occasions, however, there are many people out there that struggle to do this. Whether that’s because emails are more formal in nature, or having never been taught how to do so, knowing how to write a formal email can be challenging.
In this article, we cover some of the most common situations that you may need these formal email writing skills, how to correctly structure and format a formal email, and how UK Postbox can help you to look as professional as possible in your communications.
What is a Formal Email?
A formal email is an email that you would usually send to someone in a more professional setting, such as to someone you don't know that well or who's in a position of authority. This can include teachers, public officials, business associates, or companies that you're doing business with or trying to contact. In short, as indicated by the name, a formal email is something you should be sending out in any formal setting (unless you have been told otherwise, such as in a more casual workplace setting).
A formal email differs from a casual email in a few ways. These differences can be summarised in the email's overall format, the tone of voice you elect to write in, and the types of language you choose to use. A casual email will, for example, usually be less structured and take a more conversational tone. This may include the use of informal, abbreviated language (e.g. didn't over did not) and even things like emoticons. It goes without saying that you would not typically use emoticons in a formal email!
Formal Email Format & Content
When writing an informal email, you will usually put little to no thought into any of the language or structure you're using, but a formal email requires more time and planning, with careful considerations given to many different parts of the email. This should include how you start an email and what subject line you choose, how you structure the main body content of the email and how to sign it off correctly:
- Subject line: The subject line needs to provide enough context on the topic whilst also avoiding informal language choices.
- Salutation: Address the recipient by name wherever possible, including using the relevant titles while avoiding more casual greetings.
- Body text: This section explains the main message of the email. For a formal email, use proper grammar and complete sentences.
- Signature: Your formal email's closing statement should be polite, using your full name.
- Attachments: Any attached documents or files on your formal emails should be labelled clearly.
How to Start a Formal Email
When writing a formal email, you must make a good first impression with your language and format choices. If your email takes an overtly casual or informal tone right from the start, then this may not be appropriate for the recipient of your communications. In this instance, the first thing the recipient will see is the email subject line.
An email's subject line is the small title that you see when viewing an email in the inbox. The subject line needs to effortlessly convey the context and topic of the email in question, include little to no irrelevant information and read well. For example, if you were to send an email around to work colleagues about an upcoming meeting, an informal subject line might read as follows:
Meeting Next Week
This clearly doesn't convey all of the necessary information required, such as when the meeting is taking place or what it's about, and comes off much more unprofessional. The key length for an email subject line would usually be around six to ten words long. A more formal example would be:
End Of Year Review: July 8th, 11 AM
The next thing to consider would be the salutation you choose. In both a hand-written letter and an email, a salutation is the name given to the type of greeting you choose to open your communications with, and can be formal or informal. The most common form of salutation used in more generally formal emails is Dear, followed by the recipient's name or title. However, your workplace may have different conventions for emails, and a simple To might be fine.
If you’re unsure on how to open your formal email, the best practice is to start with "Dear" rather than "To"
Writing the Content of a Formal Email
Your email's body text is what you would call the main bulk of the content you are sending to the other person or organisation. As previously mentioned, it is crucial to use proper grammar and punctuation in this section, with complete sentences that flow naturally into one another. Longer emails should also consider segmenting the information into different sections with paragraphs for each topic or point that is raised. An email that is simply one long, poorly punctuated, and rambling wall of text can look very unprofessional, and certainly not the right tone that you want to convey in a formal email.
Font Size & Choice
You should also ensure that the email is consistent throughout in terms of things like font and font size. Excluding the usage of larger headers to open new paragraphs, we would typically recommend using a font size of between 10-12 points. Acceptable fonts to use in a formal email include (but are not limited to):
- Times New Roman
- Trebuchet MS
How to End a Formal Email
In terms of how to end a formal email, it is imperative that you maintain the same professional tone right up until the end. You need to ensure that you sign off in the correct manner and highlight any further actions that need to be taken by the addressee, as well as clearly signpost any attachments you have provided.
An email signature is simply the phrasing of how you say goodbye in an email. The signatures that you choose are an excellent opportunity to add professional touches to your formal emails, and good phrases for how to end formal emails include ones such as Kind Regards, Yours Sincerely, Yours Faithfully and more. In terms of an actual signature, if you are sending the email on behalf of your workplace or an organisation, you will most likely have been provided with a prebuilt email signature that contains information such as your job role and further contact details.
If you are sending a formal email from a more personal address, you might want to create yourself one with similar details to add a more professional touch to your email. To create an email signature, you need to find your settings on the email account you use. Using Gmail as an example, you can find the settings in the top right corner. Under the general settings tab, scroll down and you will see the option to create one or more email signatures; simply type in all the information you want to include, press save and choose the new signature. This will now automatically appear under every email you send.
There are a variety of reasons that you may need an attachment on your formal email. You might be providing additional documents or reports to back up what you are saying within the content, or are perhaps providing necessary information such as a covering letter for a job opportunity. In any case, your attachments need to be clearly signposted by the end of your email in a way that is concise and easy to follow.
The file that you upload as an attachment should also have an appropriate name, that clearly identifies what the attachment is. For example, when attaching a piece of work that you are handing in to a teacher, it might be a good idea to include your name and the date as well as the title of the work in the file name. This makes it easy for the receiver to understand what they are receiving.
Use Grammarly for Formatting Formal Emails
For some assistance in perfecting the structure, grammar and punctuation of your formal emails format, there are several tools out there that you can utilise. Grammarly is a completely free tool that checks submitted pieces of copy for any grammatical errors and makes myriad suggestions to improve the readability of your text. You can also adjust the settings to receive suggestions for different tones and levels of formality: perfect for helping craft the perfect formal email.
UK Postbox: An Alternative to Emails
While the ubiquity of email cannot be called into question in modern times, it can be argued that there is nothing quite as formal and professional as sending someone a handwritten, handcrafted letter. Whether this is for a job application or an address to a company or organisation, sending a letter instead of a formal email is a great way to make an even better first impression.
With UK Postbox, our online postage service always enables you to easily and efficiently send letters online from wherever you are. You simply have to upload your letters in a digital format, and we will print and then send these as letters on your behalf. As well as offering same-day postage and international postage, with this service, you can easily track and manage any important incoming letters and documents.
With our flexible plans and pricing, you can find a bespoke service that suits your exact needs. If you find this service appealing, you can learn more about our different services here and can view all of our pricing options with the link below.