Whether you're applying for a job, resigning from one, asking for a favor, or saying thanks, effective emails get results. But we're all drowning in emails, instant messages, and other tech and non-tech things vying for our attention, so how can you get attention and keep it? By nailing the correct email format.
If you're worried about how to format an email, don't! There's a simple structure on how to format emails that gets results. Even if English isn't your first language, knowing the format means you can create fun and functional emails that get results.
We'll give you the foundations of email formats that help you to take your writing to the next level and finish by showing how you can put your skills into practice. Follow this guide (or use Flowrite), and you'll always nail the correct email format, like this:
Basic structure of an email
Writing a basic email is like building a jigsaw. First, you need an idea of the whole picture in your mind, and then you assemble the parts. Get everything in the proper order, and you'll get the result you want.
Miss out a step or jumble up the parts, and you won't.
Why is that? Because there's a standard email format accepted across the world. It works like this:
A typical formal email has five parts:
- Subject line
- Opening lines & Body
Why does this work? The format is a logical way of answering the questions that we all have.
Let's take a look to see how this works:
- Subject line: Answers the question: What is this message, and why should I care?
- Greeting: Answers the question: Is this for me (or have I received his by accident)?
- Opening lines & Body: Answers the questions: Who is this from, and what are they telling me (or asking me)?
- Closing – Answers the question: What do they want me to do?
- Sign-off: Answers the question: How do I contact this person (and are they polite or rude)?
When you break down the email format, you can see how there's a logical exchange of information. Jumble it up and see what happens…
Now that we know what each part plays in the email format process let's look at what to include in each section.
Email subject line
The average person receives 100 emails a day, but busy business people could receive hundreds more. Add to that text, IMs, social media alerts, and phone calls (remember them), and you're seriously competing for attention.
Your subject line must be simple, clear, and compelling. And it's even better if it's short.
I would like to tender my resignation.
I'm resigning today (Your name)
Which is better?
OK, so the second is a bit abrupt, but it conveys the message in half as many words.
It doesn't matter if you're writing an email to generate a lead, apply for a job or resign from one; always tell the person what it's about and why they should care.
You can find a selection of great email subject lines here:
Every email starts with a greeting that answers the question: Is this for me?
You can use Dear, Hi, Hello, or any other greeting you choose alongside the person's name and (if they have one) professional title. (To avoid upsetting or offending someone, avoid Mr, Mrs, Miss, or Ms.)
• Dear Professor (Name)
• Hi (Name)
• Hello (Name)
You can find some great examples of how to start an email in this post.
OK, so you've grabbed their attention – now you need to answer the questions: Who is this from, and what are they telling me (or asking me)?
It's a good idea to immediately say who you are and where you work. This provides context quickly. (My name is XXX, and I'm contacting you from XXX).
Next, hit them up with the purpose of the email.
I've had a great time working with the company, but I now feel it's time that I move on and would like to tender my resignation. Can we meet to discuss the terms of my leaving?
I'm resigning from my job today. I've had a great time working here, but I've accepted another job and am moving on. Let's chat about the details.
Grab their attention with a greeting, explain who you are, and then get to the point.
So, you've grabbed your reader's attention, and they've got this far – that's great! The last part of the perfect email is a professional email sign-off.
Traditionally, you'd use yours faithfully or sincerely, but things are a bit more relaxed nowadays. So long as you're polite, feel free to use thanks, kind regards, cheers, or anything else that suits the subject matter.
If you need some more advice, you can check out our in-depth guide on how to professionally end an email here:
General email best practices
We’ll get into the details on how to write great formal emails below, but before we do, here are some general email best practices everyone should know.
1. Understand your audience
To write effective emails, you need to know whom you're writing to, which is why understanding your audience is key.
Think about who they are and the questions they will ask and answer them. The email format approach outlined above is a great place to start, so use it to your advantage.
Understanding whom you are writing to will dictate everything in your emails, from the subject line to the sign-off.
2. Get the tone right
We communicate in different ways when addressing our boss or friends. We instinctively think about what we're saying, picking the right tone of voice for the situation.
When writing emails, you'll need to nail the format – but you'll also have to get the tone of voice right.
When writing to people in positions of power or authority (a teacher, professor, boss etc.), be formal.
If writing to a friend or someone you already know, then you can afford to be a little more informal.
When writing to a partner or personal friend, do what you want!
Getting the right tone of voice takes some practice.
3. Keep it short and clear
Our time is in demand and we're all dealing with distractions, so take a shortcut and get straight to the point.
Tell the reader who you are and what you want, and spell out what they need to do. If you're writing to inform them of something, explain that upfront.
If you need them to do something, add a clear call to action with steps to follow. If it's urgent, add a deadline. And if it's really urgent, tell them when you'll follow up with them.
4. Proofread before sending
Proofreading your email is a pro tip that too many people fail to follow. We know it isn't easy to proofread everything – particularly if English isn't your first language. So let technology perform the task for you!
Advanced tools like Grammarly and Flowrite ensure your grammar is always on point. In addition, they automatically scan your emails to identify any errors and fix them.
The results are emails that follow the format and are grammatically correct, with no punctuation and proofing errors.
Writers, editors, and leaders across the world use these programs to help them write better. (Want to know a secret? We used tech too when writing this guide.)
5. Know the right email format
Are you sending a personal cold email or a mass newsletter? The format and the tools you should use are different for most types of emails (check out Flowrite for personalized outreach and choose the best bulk email sender for newsletters, etc.)
We've provided some email format basics above, but it's critical to understand the nuances between basic email formats and how to utilize them for your advantage.
To make it easier for you to nail your next email, we compiled a list of 6 example email formats below.
6 common email format examples
As we check out some email format examples, it's about to get real. Each email format example focuses on a specific audience, action, or outcome. You can see how we've used the email format outlined above and personalized it.
You can cut and paste these examples, but we recommend using them to understand the email format and develop your email style. Innovate, don't imitate!
1. Proper email format
OK, let's start with a basic example of the proper email format. This example of proper email formatting follows what most people consider a correct email format. So, it's a little basic (and a little boring), but if you want a correctly formatted email, this is a great place to start.
Here's an example of a proper format for an email.
2. Business email format
The business email format is the basis of relationships across the world. But, in reality, there's no set business email format. An email from a marketing company will be different to a legal firm, for example. Here's a simple email requesting a product sample.
You face a choice when how to format a business email about how you want to communicate. Use this example of a format for business email as the basis of your own experiments.
3. Professional email format
This example of a professional email follows the format and is about asking for leave from your boss. Here is one example where following the professional email format will help you get what you want (your holiday!).
You can use this format for professional emails whenever you need to communicate with someone in power. It's polite, clear, and concise – as all great emails are.
4. Formal email format
Formal emails are required when communicating with someone politely and professionally. You can use this standard email format for making a request, demand, or complaint. You'll find that the formal email format is pretty adaptable (and we've made it as easy as possible to adapt and amend it), so use it when you need to.
5. Resignation email format
Telling your boss that you want to leave can be tricky, but not if you use our resignation email format. Of course, there's no best resignation email format. Still, this standard approach answers all your manager's questions and sketches out a plan for your departure.
6. Thank you email format
Saying thanks just got easier with this thank you email format response. If you're saying thanks for something, you'll want to make it personal, so use this thank you email format template as a basis for your own heartfelt messages.
Nail the correct email format every time with Flowrite
Thanks to Flowrite, the use of proper email formats has never been easier. All you have to do is write down a few instructions and select the email format that fits your needs, like so:
Flowrite is the first artificial intelligence tool that uses smart email templates to write your emails for you. We already have 30+ built-in email formats in our template gallery to help you write the correct email format every time. Read more about the new way to write on the web.
At this point, you should have a good grasp of how to format an email, but perfecting it takes practice. If you find an email approach you like, then use it! And use technology like Grammarly or Flowrite to help improve your email writing, particularly if you're writing professional emails.
Don't get too bogged down in following a format but focus on making your messages as simple as possible. Over time, you'll develop your own email structures and formatting styles that work for you. When you do, be sure to share them!
Supercharge your communication with Flowrite
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