Writing a formal email is an essential skill to be successful at work and in business. Choosing the right formal email format is one of the most important steps in creating a good formal email. In this article I will explain the following:
- What is an email format and why is it so important?
- Choose the right level of formality in your email
- How to make a good formal email format
- Other characteristics of a good formal email
- Good examples of formal emails
- How to save an email format in Gmail and Outlook
What is an email format and why is it so important for a formal email?
Formatting an email is basically choosing and implementing a style for your email message. The words “email format” normally refer to the format of the text in your email. However, the format of your email address itself plays an important role in creating a good formal email format. In fact, a good email address format (possibly with a personalized domain), will make you (and your business) look much more reliable.
Let’s face it, if you receive an email with advertisements from a @gmail email address with poor formatting, you will probably ignore it. It can be argued that a good email domain, a good email signature and a proper email format are essential to conducting business successfully. We already explained how to make a good email signature and how to get a personalized email address. The next step is to now choose the right formal email formats for your emails. I said formats and not format as I would really recommend creating more than one email format. This way you will have specialized formats for different situations. For example, you can have a very formal email format to contact new customers and one slightly less formal to talk to your manager.
What are the characteristics of an email format?
To create a good email format you will have to focus on both the look and the content of your email. For what concerns the look, some of the most important parameters are:
- Choosing a good font
- Choosing a good font size
- Choosing an appropriate text colour
- Put the right amount of space in between paragraphs
For what concerns the content of your email, a good formal email format needs to have a good starting, a good ending and a good email signature.
First things first: how formal should the email format be?
The first step of making a good email format is to understand which level of formality you need to use. The general rule (as for your CV and cover letter) is: better too formal than too informal. So if you have any doubts about how formal an email format should be, keep it more formal. Remember, you can always lower the level of formality after exchanging a couple of emails.
Understand your industry
The first step in understanding how formal an email should be is to look around in your environment. Every industry (and sometimes every company) has different standards. For example, if you work for a tech startup and you are emailing with another tech startupper you do not need to worry too much about formality. However, if you are a lawyer trying to get a new big client, you probably do not want to start your email with “Hi there” or close it with “Cheers”.
The practical steps to learn to understand your industry and company is to observe how other people set up their emails. How do your colleagues and peers communicate with customers? And how do they communicate with each other? Take a look at some good examples and understand what level of formality is needed for different situations in your industry.
Decide how many formal email formats you need
After observing how communication is done within your company and industry, you should be able to determine how many different email formats you need. If you still have doubts about it, I would recommend at least two different email formats. One for formal communication with outsiders and one for internal communication with colleagues.
How to make a good formal email format
First step, a good font
Choosing a good text font for your email format should be really easy. However, I still see emails with horribly unprofessional fonts too often. Would you take an email with the font such as the one below seriously ? Well, I wouldn’t!
The easiest way to choose a font for your formal emails is actually to not choose anything but to stick with the recommend font from your provider. If you are using Outlook, you can stick to Calibri. If you are using Gmail, you can stick to Arial or Roboto.
As most users use the standard font, your email will look more “normal” if you also go with the flow. If you are more of a creative type and want to choose another font, you can take a look at our guide on choosing fonts and choose a good professional alternative font.
Second step: choose a good font size
Choosing a good font size is really important. If the text in your email is too small it will be difficult to read. If the text is too big, it will be really annoying for the reader. As for the font type, my recommendation is to stick with the standard font size. If you want to personalize your font size, you can take a look at our guide on how to choose a good text size for your email signature.
Third step: choose a good text colour
This is the easiest step, use the standard black colour for your text. This is the best option. No discussion! The only part of your email where using a different colour can be a good idea is in your email signature.
Put the right amount of space in between paragraphs
How does a text with so much
space between paragraphs look?
It looks horrible! That is why it is important to put the right space in between paragraphs. Also having a very long paragraph can make your email difficult to read. When writing a formal email, keep enough space between paragraphs but do not leave too much empty space either. As a rule of thumb, don’t make paragraphs longer than five rows and leave one empty row when there is a main change of topic.
Other characteristics of a good formal email
As I previously explained, choosing the right font and colour is only one of the important characteristics of a good formal email. In fact, some characteristics such as the starting and the ending of an email are essential!
The best way to start a formal email font
The most standard and probably the best way to start a formal email is:
“Dear” + Title (Mr/Ms/Dr etc.) + Surname of the person.
In case you do not know the name of the person, you can always use “Dear Sir or Madam”. However, I recommend doing some research (for example via an email verifier) to find the name of the person you are contacting. Emails starting with “Dear Sir or Madam” are quite impersonal and also look quite spammy. Nowadays people receive so many advertising emails that most people ignore emails without their name in the email opening.
How to start a less formal email
If you are writing a less formal email, for example to your colleagues, you could just start the email with:
- Hi + Name of the person,
- Hello + Name of the person,
- Good morning/afternoon/evening + Name of the person
As you might have noticed, I always included the name of the person here. If you know someone enough to be not formal, you know his/her name. Please always include the name of the recipient at the beginning of the email.
Always start a new paragraph after the email opening
After an email opening you should always start a new paragraph. To be honest, I also recommend leaving an empty line between the opening and the body of the text. You can see a good and a bad example below
Closing your email correctly
How to close a formal email? Simple, with “Best regards, “ followed by your name. The screenshot below shows a good example.
As previously said, make sure you are closing your formal email with an appropriate signature! This will not only look much more professional, but it will also make it easy for the recipient to contact you again (as email signatures usually include phone numbers).
Get a personalized email domain!
I cannot stress the importance of having a personalized email domain enough! An @gmail or @Outlook email address is OK for personal communication. However, if you are running a business you really need to get a personalized email domain.
If you work for an employer or study at a University you do not need to worry as your employer or college probably already offers you a personalized email address. For example an @YourUniversity email address already gives you much more credibility than an @gmail email address.
Good examples of formal email formats
As I previously said, the best examples you can look at are your colleagues or peers from your industry. In case you cannot find good examples, you can take a look at https://templatelab.com/professional-email-examples/ to get inspired. However, do not forget that you do not need a complex email format to be successful. I really recommend something as easy as the screenshot below.
How to save an email format
Good, now you know how to create a good email format. But how can you save your new formal email format in Gmail or Outlook?
Saving an email format is extremely useful as it allows you to re-use the same format without having to adjust the font style every time. As Gmail and Outlook are the most used email providers, I will now explain how to save an email format with these email providers.
How to save your default email format in Gmail
Gmail is the free email service offered by Google. If you do not have a Gmail account, I would really recommend opening one for free! The standard format used by Gmail is already quite nice and professional. But let’s take a look at how it can be changed. Follow the steps below to change the standard email format in Gmail:
Open your gmail account by going to gmail.com
Click on the setting menu on the top right of the webpage (as in screenshot below).
This will open the “quick menu” settings of your Gmail account. From there select “See all settings” to go to the complete menu.
Search for Default text style in the full menu (as shown below). This is where you can set the standard format of your emails. Here you can change font, font size, text color and much more. I would recommend setting this to the format you use the most.
How to save multiple email formats (templates) in Gmail
Gmail also offers a great function to save multiple templates to choose from when sending emails. As I previously explained, this is a great opportunity to create different templates for different situations.
The first step to creating multiple email formats in Gmail is to enable the templates function. To do this, go back to the full menu (as I just explained in the chapter above) and select “Advanced”. From the advanced menu set “Templates” to “Enabled” and click “Save changes” (as shown in screenshot below).
To create a template, just go back to the Gmail inbox and click “+ Create a new email”. Just type the formal (or informal) email template and set the fonts according to the format you want to have.
From there, click the three vertical dots on the bottom right of your new message (as in screenshot below) and click “Templates” and then click “Save draft as template”.
After naming your template, you will be able to re-use the template as much as you want. You just click the three dots on the bottom right of a new email and select the right template.
How to save your default email format in Outlook
Microsoft Outlook also offers the possibility of customizing your email format. You can follow these steps to set your favourite formal email format in Outlook:
Open outlook.com and sign in with your Outlook account. From there, select settings, type “Format” in the search bar and then select “Message format” (steps are shown in screenshot below). From there you can personalize your email format and also add a default email signature.
These were our suggestions on how to choose a good formal email format and how to set it up in your email provider. If you liked this article take a look at our article on how to use mailchimp to create a successful email marketing campaign!