How to Format a Formal Email (With Steps and Example)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 30 October 2022 | Published 20 July 2021

Updated 30 October 2022

Published 20 July 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.

Learning to format a formal email properly is an important skill for the workplace, as it conveys professionalism and respect. In this article, we discuss the proper format of formal emails and demonstrate how you should write one.

What is the format of a formal email?

A formal email is direct and professional. Here are some important elements to take note of when writing a formal email.

Use your professional email address

When you send a formal email, you should do it from your professional email address, not your personal one. A professional email address should comprise your full name or initials along with numbers, if necessary.

Examples include vania.leao@email.com, v.leao@email.com and v.leao22@email.com.

Include a clear subject line

Always include a clear and concise subject line as the title of your formal email, as this is the first thing your recipient sees when they receive that email.

Use a legible font

Make your email easy to read by using the default typeface. If you wish to customise the font, consider sticking to common classics like Arial, Times New Roman or Calibri.

Include a professional greeting

A greeting sets the tone for the content that follows. In a formal email, it is best to begin your email with a professional but friendly tone.

Read more: 6 Ways To Start Your Email Right

Organise the content body

Organise the body of your email into short paragraphs:

  • The first paragraph encapsulates the main reason for the email. If the recipient doesn't know you, you can introduce yourself in this paragraph as well.

  • Subsequent paragraphs provide more detailed information regarding what you need from the recipient.

  • The concluding paragraph should recap the objective of the email and thank the recipient for their time.

Sign-off

A complimentary close, or sign-off, is a word or phrase that precedes your signature. If you're writing to a friendly colleague, you can use an abbreviated or casual close. Otherwise, a formal close would be more appropriate.

Read more: 63 Email Sign-Offs To Use for Professional Emails

Include your signature

Make sure to include the following details underneath your sign-off:

  • Your name and professional title

  • Your work number

When do you need to write a formal email?

There are various circumstances that call for a formal email.

  • In the workplace: Unless you have developed a friendship with a client, colleague or coworker, maintain formal email standards for all work-related communication.

  • Sales pitches: When you're presenting a sales pitch (even to an existing client) formatting it as a formal email is most appropriate.

  • Job queries: When you're applying for a new job, a formal email shows that you're capable of presenting yourself professionally.

  • Termination or resignation: Any time a change of employment is communicated, it should be done in the format of a formal email.

Related: How To Write a Resignation Letter (With Template, Samples and Tips)

How to write a formal email

Follow these steps to write a formal email:

1. Write a succinct subject line

Your subject line should describe the purpose of your email in a few words - specifically, seven words or fewer. If it is urgent, use markers such as 'Urgent', 'Reply' to signify its importance, and 'Fwd' when it is part of an email chain.

Examples of effective subject lines include "Fwd: Board Meeting on 12 July 2021" or "Feedback on Monthly Financial Report, June 2021."

2. Choose an appropriate greeting

If you know the name of the recipient, an appropriate greeting could be "Dear" followed by their title and surname, such as "Ms Lee."

If you don't know the name of the recipient, you could start with "To Whom It May Concern" or "Dear Sir or Madam."

Read more: How and When To Use the Phrase 'To Whom It May Concern'

3. Organise the body of the email

In the first paragraph, state the objective clearly and concisely. For example, you might begin with "I'm writing to propose a sales opportunity." Your subsequent paragraphs will provide more detail on what this opportunity entails.

4. Recap the objective and express gratitude

In your conclusion, recap the objective of the email and present your recipient with their probable next steps. Finish by thanking the recipient for their time.

5. Include a complimentary close and signature

An acceptable close in this context might be "Sincerely" or "Best regards" followed by your signature (your full name and professional title, and your phone number).

6. Proofread and revise

Before you send the email, check that no spelling or grammatical errors are present. Also, make sure that any attachments you may have mentioned are included in the email.

Formal email template

If you're new to writing formal emails, you can consider using this template.

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

Greetings [Recipient's name or professional title],

My name is [your name] and I am [your professional capacity]

[A brief description of the reason you are emailing.]

[An expression of gratitude and suggestion of next steps.]

Sincerely,
[Your name and professional title]
[Your professional contact information]

Formal email example

Here's an example of a formal email written using the template:

Subject: High-Quality Martial Arts Equipment

Dear Mrs Lim,

My name is William Tan, and I am a sales associate at Action Martial Arts. We are one of Singapore's leading providers of martial arts mats and training equipment.

We are preparing to roll out a new line of karate gis that are light enough to wear in Singapore's climate but durable enough to handle intense training. We are looking into working with local gyms to create branded gear for students to wear, and I'd love to talk to you about getting a trial gi sent to you, along with some samples of our pads and grappling clothes.

Please let me know if you'd like more information. Thank you, and I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,
William Tan, Sales Associate at Action Martial Arts
+65 8555 5555

Related: How To Reply To an Email With Template and Examples

The model shown is for illustration purposes only and may require additional formatting to meet accepted standards.

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