Writing letters and emails in English can be a interesting challenge for non-native speakers. And if you use a computer for work, you’ll definitely need to learn how to do it.
If you use English at your workplace, need to communicate with English-speaking clients, or even use a service in an English-speaking country, you’ll need to learn how to write emails and letters in English.
The good news is that once you learn the principles of writing different types of letters and emails in English, such as the most appropriate greetings and sign-offs, how to format your letters, and how to open them, writing them becomes effortless.
And we’re all about making learning English as easy as possible, which is why we’ve created this complete guide on how to write letters and emails in English - including tables with the most common expressions and other useful tips.
Table of contents
- Why learn how to write a letter in English?
- How to write a formal or business letter in English
- How to write an informal letter in English
- How to write an email in English
- Epic email sign-offs that’ll make you chuckle
Why learn how to write a letter in English?
So, why should you even bother learning to write a letter or an email in English? Well, because it’s part of your daily life.
You use written forms of communication daily: from writing motivational letters for job applications to sending a neverending stream of emails at work, you can’t escape writing letters or emails.
And when you're dealing with an English-speaking client or coworker or applying for a job that demands advanced English skills, you need to be on top of your letter-writing game. Mastering this art will not only make you appear more professional but also help you get your point across and express yourself more effectively.
Key letter writing vocabulary to keep in mind
Before we go any further, let’s make sure we’re on the same page when it comes to letter-related vocabulary. Take a look at this table of essential letter-writing terminology.
|/ˌeɪ ˈfɔːr saɪz/
|The standard paper size used in many countries measuring 210 × 297 millimeters.
|The standard paper size used in North America, measuring 8.5 × 11 inches.
|A paper covering used to enclose a letter or document before mailing it.
|A printed heading at the top of a letter, usually displaying the sender's information.
|An electronic message sent over the internet or a computer network.
|The traditional method of sending letters or packages through a postal service.
|The greeting used at the beginning of a letter or email, such as "Dear," "Hello," or "Hi."
|The main content or message of a letter or email.
|A person's name or personalized mark written at the end of a letter or email.
|Following established conventions and manners, often used in professional or official correspondence.
|Casual and relaxed, used in friendly or personal correspondence.
|Files or documents that are included and sent along with an email.
|A polite phrase used to end a letter, such as "Sincerely," "Best regards," or "Yours truly."
|A response or answer to a letter or email.
|A brief description or title that summarizes the content of an email.
|Abbreviation for "carbon copy," used to indicate additional recipients of an email.
|Abbreviation for "blind carbon copy," used to indicate hidden recipients of an email.
|A preliminary version of a letter or email, usually not yet finalized or sent.
|Requiring immediate attention or action.
How to write a formal or business letter in English
Writing a formal letter in English requires knowledge of business English and being fluent in corporate speak. It involves saying things professionally and politely, regardless of whether it’s praise or complaint.
What’s more, when writing a formal or business letter in English, you must follow a specific layout that includes putting information like reference numbers, addresses, and dates in specific places on the document.
But fret not - below, we explain how to structure your formal letter and how to start and end it.
Structuring a formal letter in English
While formal emails follow a simple Salutation - Body - Signoff structure, a formal letter has a slightly more complex layout.
There’s some visual flexibility when it comes to the letter layout. Still, typically, a formal letter should have the sender details mentioned in the top left corner of the document (such as your name, address, email, and phone number) and the recipient details on the right-hand side, below the sender details. And below all that, you’d start with a formal greeting.
Take a look at this example to see what a formal letter layout looks like:
456 Oak Avenue,
123 Maple Street,
June 15, 2023
Dear Mr. Thompson,
… and then continue your letter.
If you’re writing a letter regarding a job application or a specific issue, you’d want to include the job application number or the reference number. The best place to put those numbers is before the greeting. In that case, your letter layout might look like this:
456 Oak Avenue,
123 Maple Street,
June 15, 2023
Re: Job application no. AAA000
Dear Mr. Thompson,
How to write the date on a letter in English
When it comes to writing the date on your letters in English… well, there are different rules depending on the letter type and the country.
In formal letters, you should always write the date in full. You should avoid any abbreviations like 29-06-2023 or 2023/06/29. An example of this would be June 29th, 2023 in the US and 29 June 2023 in other countries around the world (yes, no commas). In some Asian countries, the date can also be written as 2023 June 29 (also no commas).
In informal letters, the date can be abbreviated. If you’re in the US, you’d shorten it this way: 29-06-2023 (day-month-year). In other countries, you’d invert it this way: 06-29-2023 (month-day-year). You can also use a slash (/) or a dot (.) instead of the dash (-) in between the numbers.
Formal letter greetings
The most commonly accepted way to start a formal letter is by addressing the person you’re writing to as directly as possible.
But in many situations, you won’t know the name or the gender of the person you’re writing to. In those cases, you can use more general greetings that are still widely accepted and considered polite.
Here’s a list of the most common greetings you can use depending on who you’re writing to.
|When you want to keep it generic.
|To whom it may concern
|When you are unsure about the appropriate recipient.
|When you don't know the specific name or gender of the recipient.
|Dear Mr. [Last Name]
|When addressing a male recipient, and you know their last name.
|Dear Mrs. [Last Name]
|When addressing a married female recipient and you know their last name.
|Dear Ms. [Last Name]
|When addressing a female recipient, and you don't know if they are married or unmarried, or if they prefer this form of address.
|Dear Mr./Ms. [Last Name]
|When addressing a recipient whose gender is unknown or you prefer to use a neutral form of address.
|Dear [Recipient's Full Name]
|When you know the full name of the recipient and want to address them personally.
|Dear Dr. [Last Name]
|When addressing a recipient who holds a doctorate degree, regardless of gender.
|Dear Professor [Last Name]
|When addressing a recipient who holds the academic title of "Professor".
|Dear [Job Title] [Last Name]
|When addressing a recipient by their professional title, such as "Dear Director Smith" or "Dear Manager Johnson".
|Dear Hiring Manager
|When addressing the hiring manager in a job application or cover letter.
|Dear Human Resources Director
|When addressing the human resources director for employment-related matters.
|Dear [Company/Organization Name] Representative
|When addressing a representative of a specific company or organization.
|Dear Customer Service
|When addressing the customer service department for inquiries or complaints.
|Dear [Event/Occasion] Organizer
|When addressing the organizer or coordinator of a specific event or occasion.
|Dear Board of Directors
|When addressing the collective board of directors of a company or organization.
|Dear [Government Agency/Department]
|When addressing a specific government agency or department for official matters.
|Dear [Educational Institution] Admissions Office
|When addressing the admissions office of a specific educational institution for enrollment-related matters.
|When addressing the editor of a publication for a letter to the editor or a submission.
How to start a formal letter in English
Ok, so now you know how to greet the person you’re writing to. But what comes next? How do you start your letter?
The first sentence of a letter is always the most difficult to write. Once you’ve got it out of the way, it’ll be easier to continue writing the rest of your message.
To help you out, we’ve created the tables below with suggestions for starting your letter, depending on the situation.
Cover letters when applying for a job
Your cover letter's introduction is the perfect opportunity to make a memorable first impression on potential employers and position yourself as a professional and capable candidate.
To help you craft a professional opener, we've compiled a table of the most common ways to start a cover letter.
When to use
|I'm writing in the application of…
|When applying for a position.
|I am writing to apply for the position of…
|When expressing your intention to apply for a specific position.
|I am submitting my application for…
|When formally submitting your job application.
|I am interested in applying for the position of…
|When expressing your interest in a specific position.
|I am writing to express my strong interest in the position of…
|When emphasizing your enthusiasm and interest in a position.
|I would like to be considered for the position of…
|When requesting consideration for a specific position.
|Please accept my application for the position of…
|When formally submitting your application.
|I would like to apply for the position of…
|When indicating your desire to apply for a specific position.
|Having seen the job posting for…, I’d like to express my interest in the position.
|When referring to a specific job posting you came across.
|After reviewing the job description for…, I’d like to express my interest in the position.
|When mentioning that you have reviewed the job description.
Whether you're seeking details about a specific matter or uncovering the reason behind a situation, the introduction of your letter sets the tone for the rest of it.
To help you start your letter with confidence (and avoid wasting hours trying to write that first sentence without sounding rude), we've assembled a table of expressions you can use for inspiration.
When to use
|I'm writing to inquire about...
|When seeking information or clarification on a specific matter.
|I'm writing to enquire in regards to...
|When inquiring about an issue or seeking further details.
|I'm reaching out to find out...
|When you want to gather information or seek an update.
|I would like to inquire about...
|When you have questions or need information about something.
|Could you please provide information on...
|When you are requesting specific details or data.
|I am interested in learning more about...
|When you want to gather further information or explore a topic.
|I hope you can assist me with...
|When seeking help or support regarding a particular matter.
|I am writing to seek clarification on...
|When you need clarification or further explanation.
|I would appreciate it if you could provide...
|When requesting specific information or documentation.
|Can you please provide me with details on...
|When you need specific details or information about something.
|I am contacting you to inquire about...
|When you want to initiate an inquiry or request information.
|I'm interested in finding out...
|When you want to gather information or obtain specific details.
|I am writing to inquire whether...
|When seeking confirmation or information about a certain matter.
|Could you please let me know...
|When requesting information or seeking an update.
Writing a complaint letter is always challenging. You might be worried about coming across as rude or hurting someone’s feelings. Or, you might struggle to express negative emotions such as anger or frustration constructively and professionally. Here are a few examples of how you can start your complaint letter in a way that sounds both polite and authoritative.
When to use
|I am writing to express my dissatisfaction with...
|When you want to convey your dissatisfaction with a particular issue.
|I am writing to lodge a formal complaint about...
|When you want to make a formal complaint regarding a specific matter.
|I would like to bring to your attention that...
|When you want to draw attention to a problem or issue.
|I am writing to register a complaint regarding...
|When you want to formally register a complaint about something.
|I feel compelled to express my concern about...
|When you want to communicate your concern regarding a particular matter.
|I wish to voice my disappointment with...
|When you want to express your disappointment about a situation.
|I am writing to express my strong dissatisfaction with...
|When you want to convey your strong dissatisfaction with a specific issue.
|I am extremely dissatisfied with the...
|When you want to convey your extreme dissatisfaction with something.
|I am writing to bring to your immediate attention...
|When you want to highlight an urgent issue or problem.
|I am compelled to write this letter of complaint due to...
|When you feel strongly compelled to write a complaint letter due to a specific reason.
|I regret to inform you that...
|When you want to inform the recipient about a problem or issue.
|I have encountered a significant issue with...
|When you want to inform about a major problem or concern.
|I am writing to express my discontent with...
|When you want to express your discontentment about a specific matter.
|I am disappointed with the level of service provided in relation to...
|When you want to express your disappointment with the quality of service or product.
|I am writing to raise a formal complaint regarding...
|When you want to raise a formal complaint about a specific matter.
They say “sorry” is the hardest word to say. But regardless of how hard it might be to say it, apologizing might be necessary in many situations. You may need to apologize for a simple misunderstanding or not completing a project on time. Here’s how you can start your apology letter in a heartfelt and kind way. You can also learn more about how to say sorry meaningfully in English here.
When to use
|I am writing to apologize for...
|When you want to express your apology for a specific action or event.
|I would like to extend my sincere apologies for...
|When you want to convey your sincere apologies for a particular matter.
|I am deeply sorry for...
|When you want to express your deep regret and apologize for something.
|Please accept my apologies for...
|When you want to request acceptance of your apologies for a specific matter.
|I would like to offer my apologies for...
|When you want to offer your apologies for a mistake or inconvenience.
|I wanted to reach out and apologize for...
|When you want to express your apology and acknowledge a wrongdoing.
|I am writing to express my regret and offer my apologies for...
|When you want to express your regret and offer your apologies for a specific matter.
|I would like to express my sincere apologies for...
|When you want to convey your sincere apologies for a mistake or offense.
|I want to apologize for...
|When you want to convey your apology for a particular action or event.
|I would like to apologize unreservedly for...
|When you want to convey a strong and unequivocal apology for something.
|I am truly sorry for...
|When you want to express your heartfelt apology for a specific matter.
|I feel deeply remorseful for...
|When you want to convey your deep sense of remorse for something.
|I would like to take this opportunity to apologize for...
|When you want to seize the opportunity to offer your apologies for a mistake or wrongdoing.
|I am writing to express my sincere regret and offer my apologies for...
|When you want to express your sincere regret and offer your apologies for a specific matter.
|I want to convey my apologies for...
|When you want to convey your apologies for a mistake or inconvenience.
|I am sorry to inform you that...
|When you want to apologize for delivering bad news or unfortunate circumstances.
Response letter to an inquiry
Sometimes, you may have to respond to someone’s query or solve their concerns. Here’s how you can respond to an inquiry letter from a client or a coworker - whether it’s in your own name or the name of your company.
When to use
|Thank you for your email regarding…
|When responding to a general message or inquiry.
|In response to your email from [date]...
|When replying to a specific letter or email.
|I appreciate you reaching out to me/us regarding...
|When expressing appreciation for the recipient's communication.
|I am writing in reference to your question...
|When addressing a specific concern or question raised by the recipient.
|I have received your inquiry and...
|When acknowledging receipt of a message or inquiry.
|I would like to thank you for bringing [matter] to my/our attention...
|When expressing gratitude for bringing a matter to the recipient's attention.
|I am writing in regards to the issue you raised...
|When addressing a specific issue or matter raised by the recipient.
|I/We appreciate your interest in my/our product/service and...
|When responding to a customer's interest in a product or service.
|Thank you for your recent inquiry about...
|When acknowledging and responding to a recent request or inquiry.
|I am writing to provide you with the requested information regarding...
|When fulfilling a request for specific information by the recipient.
|I would like to address the concerns you raised in your email...
|When specifically addressing concerns raised by the recipient.
|I am pleased to respond to your question regarding...
|When providing a response to a specific inquiry or question.
|I/We have reviewed your email and...
|When indicating that the recipient's message has been reviewed.
|Thank you for taking the time to write to me/us...
|When expressing gratitude for the recipient's communication.
|I am writing to respond to your email regarding...
|When acknowledging receipt and providing a response to the recipient's message.
|I have carefully considered the issues you raised in your email...
|When expressing thorough consideration of the recipient's concerns.
|I/We appreciate your feedback regarding...
|When expressing appreciation for the recipient's feedback.
|I am writing in response to your question about...
|When providing a response to a specific inquiry or question by the recipient.
Writing an effective sales letter can be challenging. Professional copywriters, who are often in charge of writing such letters to the company’s customers, use copywriting and psychological principles to grab the reader’s interest and persuade them to purchase the advertised product or service.
But, sometimes, you may need to write a sales letter yourself. Here’s how you can start it.
|When to use
|Introducing our latest [product/service]...
|When introducing a new product or service to potential customers.
|We are excited to announce our special promotion...
|When announcing a special promotion or offer.
|Discover the exclusive benefits of our [product/service]...
|When highlighting the unique advantages of a product or service.
|We're delighted to present our new [product/service]...
|When presenting a newly launched product or service.
|Take advantage of our limited-time offer...
|When promoting a time-limited or seasonal offer.
|We have an exciting opportunity for you...
|When presenting a unique opportunity or offer to potential customers.
|Get ready for our biggest sale of the year...
|When promoting a significant sale or event.
|Join us in celebrating the launch of our new [product/service]...
|When inviting customers to celebrate the launch of a new product or service.
|Discover the secret to [desired outcome]...
|When highlighting the benefits or solutions provided by a product or service.
|You're invited to our exclusive [event]...
|When inviting customers to a special event or gathering.
|Elevate your [experience/lifestyle/business] with...
|When emphasizing how a product or service can enhance the customer's experience, lifestyle, or business.
|Unlock the potential of your [area/industry] with...
|When promoting a product or service that can benefit a specific area or industry.
|Transform your [activity/task] with...
|When showcasing how a product or service can transform a specific activity or task.
|We have something special in store for you...
|When creating anticipation and teasing an upcoming offer or announcement.
|Reimagine [activity/task] with our revolutionary...
|When highlighting a product or service that brings a new perspective or innovation to a specific activity or task.
|Discover the power of [product/service]...
|When emphasizing the impact or effectiveness of a product or service.
|Welcome to a world of [benefits/features] with...
|When inviting customers to explore the benefits and features of a product or service.
How to sign off or end a formal letter in English
Another challenge when writing a formal letter in English is how to sign it off in a professional and polite manner, adequately to the situation. Not every sign-off will be appropriate for a formal letter, and it will differ depending on how you addressed the letter, to begin with.
Below, you’ll find a table of the most common sign-off for formal letters in English with an explanation of when it’s appropriate to use it.
But aside from the sign-off, you also have the option to add a postscript (PS).
A PS (or P.S. - both forms are correct, so it’s up to you if you want to use dots) is an abbreviation of the Latin post scriptum, which means “after text.” It’s a comment you add at the end of a letter after the sign-off to add extra information.
This is a great way to emphasize something you mentioned in the letter, mention an additional detail, or simply add a friendly personal touch to your letter.
When to use
|When starting the letter with "Dear Sir/Madam" or "To whom it may concern".
|When starting the letter with a specific recipient's name.
|When you want to convey a polite and friendly tone.
|When you want to convey a professional yet friendly tone.
|When you want to convey sincerity and authenticity.
|When you want to show respect and deference.
|When you want to express gratitude or appreciation.
|When you want to convey a formal and professional tone.
|With warm regards
|When you want to express warmth and friendliness.
|When you want to convey politeness and a formal tone.
|With best wishes
|When you want to convey good wishes and positivity.
|When writing a formal letter in a more traditional or formal style.
|When you want to keep the sign-off short and simple.
|When you want to express gratitude or appreciation for the recipient.
|When you want to convey a friendly and warm tone.
|Wishing you the best
|When you want to convey good wishes to the recipient.
|When you want to express appreciation or gratitude.
|When you want to convey a formal and respectful tone.
|When you want to convey good wishes or regards.
|With kindest regards
|When you want to convey a friendly and heartfelt sentiment.
How to write an informal letter in English
Writing an informal letter is without any doubt much easier than writing a formal letter. Unlike a formal letter, an informal letter doesn’t carry the pressure of sounding professional and polite or being fluent in business English.
An informal letter is a great way to tell a story of something that recently happened to you, share the big news with your friends and acquaintances, invite people to a party, or simply check in with someone you haven’t heard from in a while.
In the following sections, we’ll share some ways to start and end your informal letter in English.
Informal letter greetings
You can open an informal letter in many ways. How you do will depend on the person you’re talking to and how close your relationship is.
When writing to your best friend, you may start with something easygoing, like “Hey girl” or “Hey buddy.” But when writing to a more distant acquaintance, you’d want to start with something less casual like a good ol’ “Hello.” Explore 107 diverse ways to say hello in English here.
A good rule of thumb is this: if you don’t know the person well but are on friendly terms, go for a more universal greeting like a simple “Dear [First Name].”
When to use
|Hi/Hello [First Name]
|When writing to a close friend or someone you have a casual relationship with.
|Hey there!/Hi there!
|When writing to someone in a friendly and casual manner.
|Dear [First Name]
|When writing to a friend, family member, or someone you know well.
|Dear [Nickname]/Hey [Nickname]
|When writing to a close friend or someone with whom you share a nickname.
|Dear [Mom/Dad/Brother, etc.]
|When writing to a close friend or family member with a specific relationship mentioned.
|Hey [Name], long time no see!/Hi [Name], it's been a while!
|When writing to a friend you haven't seen or spoken to in a long time.
|Greetings from [Location]!/Hello from [Location]!
|When writing from a specific location and want to share the greeting.
|Hey there, stranger!
|When writing to a friend or acquaintance you haven't been in touch with for a while.
How to start an informal letter in English
Truth be told, there’s no standard way to open an informal letter. You could do it in as many ways as your imagination and creativity allow you to. Informal letters are more flexible in structure and content than formal letters, which use standard corporate-sounding phrases.
So, feel free to open your informal letters however you like - appropriately to the situation and the person you’re talking to. But here are a few suggestions you might find helpful.
When to use
|Long time no see!/It's been ages since we last talked!
|When reconnecting with a friend or someone you haven't spoken to in a while.
|Just wanted to say hi!
|When writing a casual and friendly letter.
|How have you been?
|When showing genuine concern for the recipient's well-being.
|Guess what happened today!/You won't believe this!
|When starting a letter with an exciting or surprising anecdote.
|I've been thinking about you lately and wanted to check in.
|When expressing that the recipient has been on your thoughts recently.
|It's been too long since we caught up!
|When expressing the desire to reconnect and catch up with a friend.
|You'll never guess what happened!
|When starting a letter with an intriguing or dramatic statement.
|Tell me all the news!
|When expressing curiosity and interest in the recipient's life.
|I'm so excited to share some big news with you!
|When starting a letter with a sense of excitement or anticipation.
|Just wanted to say thanks for being an awesome friend!
|When expressing gratitude and appreciation to a friend.
|Can you believe it's already [Current month]? Time flies!
|When acknowledging the passing of time and engaging in small talk.
|Remember that funny story I told you? I have an update!
|When referring back to a previous conversation or shared experience.
How to sign off or end an informal letter in English
Informal letters typically have quite relaxed, warm, and easygoing sign-offs. They can go from the standard “Cheers” or “Best” to more intimate “xoxo” or “Hugs and kisses.”
Here, a good rule of thumb is to reserve the most easygoing and warm sign-offs for your closest friends and family and use the more universal ones, like “Best” or “Warm regards,” for those you’re on friendly terms with but aren’t close with. Discover a vast amount of different ways to say goodbye in English here.
When to use
|When ending the letter in a casual and friendly manner
|When expressing concern for the well-being of the recipient
|Lots of love/Love
|When writing to a close family member or someone you have a strong affection for
|Hugs and kisses/XOXO
|When ending the letter with a warm and affectionate tone.
|Your friend/Your pal
|When signing off as a friend or someone with a close relationship.
|Catch you later
|When ending the letter in a casual and upbeat manner.
|Until next time
|When expressing the anticipation of meeting or talking again.
|Thinking of you
|When expressing that you have the recipient in your thoughts.
|When signing off with a heartfelt and affectionate sentiment.
|When ending the letter with a positive and lighthearted tone.
|Best wishes/Warm wishes
|When conveying good wishes and positive thoughts to the recipient.
|Keep in touch
|When expressing the desire to continue the conversation or maintain contact.
|When signing off with sincerity and authenticity.
|With all my heart/With affection
|When expressing deep feelings of love or affection towards the recipient.
|Yours forever/Yours always
|When signing off with a strong commitment and loyalty.
|Sending you positive vibes
|When expressing positive thoughts and well-wishes to the recipient.
|With a big hug
|When signing off with a warm and affectionate gesture.
How to write an email in English
How you write an email in English - or in any other language, for that matter - will depend on the nature of the email and its recipient. So, when writing your emails, always make sure they’re appropriate for their intended use (no one wants to send an overly casual email to their overly serious boss).
But aside from that, here are some general tips for writing emails you should always follow:
- Use a professional email address. It’s time to ditch the embarrassing email address you created when you were 13.
- Make your subject lines clear and concise. They should summarize the purpose of your email in a few words.
- Avoid using overly casual or informal language, slang, or abbreviations in your emails - unless you’re writing a casual email to a friend.
- Avoid using too many emojis. You may add one or two if you think it’s appropriate. Emojis can be a great way to add a bit of positivity to your email and lighten the air. Just don’t overdo it.
- Be mindful of cultural differences. Different cultures may have varying communication styles and norms. Get familiar with the cultural expectations of your English-speaking audience to make sure that your emails are respectful and appropriate.
- Space out the content of your emails into short paragraphs. No one wants to read long blocks of text.
- Use an easy-to-read font like Arial, Times New Roman, or Calibri in sizes between 10 and 12. Avoid using too many colors or fancy fonts. They can be distracting and hard to read.
- Of course, use appropriate greetings and sign-offs.
Epic email sign-offs that’ll make you chuckle
Yes, we just went over a huge list of ways to start and end your letters and emails in English. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be original. It’s 2023 - at this point, everything is allowed, even signing off your work emails in a funny way.
Here are some of the most epic email sign-offs that made us laugh:
After this exhaustive list of letter greetings, sign-offs, and first sentences, we hope you feel more confident to write your next motivation letter, business email, love note or even apply for a job!
But even though now you know the expressions that can get you started with your next letter, remember that practice makes perfect. The more letters and emails you write, the better you’ll get at writing them. And one day, you won’t need to read blog articles like this one to write a masterfully worded letter.
And if you’d like to enrich your emails and letters with more English vocabulary, check out the articles on our English blog.