100 common mistakes with starting and ending emails

Summary: The most common mistakes in English emails, including grammar, formality, fixed phrases, paragraphing, punctuation, etc.

This is a list of common mistakes of grammar, politeness/ formality, friendliness, making a good impression, etc when emailing for business and personal purposes, concentrating on the parts at the beginning and end. Sentences which are always wrong are followed by an X, and ones which are sometimes wrong are explained in more detail. There is also explanation of some better phrases. 

For a list of the most useful correct emailing phrases and intensive practice of this kind of language, download Teaching Emailing: Interactive Classroom Activities.

This article is part of a series on useful emailing phrases:

  1. The 100 most useful phrases for starting emails
  2. The 100 most useful emailing phrases
  3. The 100 most useful phrases for ending emails
  4. 100 common mistakes with starting and ending emails
  5. Differences between British and American emails
  6. Cultural differences in emailing

 

Typical mistakes with opening emails

Typical mistakes with email opening greetings

Typical mistakes with email opening greetings to one person

  1. No opening greeting
  2. Using the straight down to business first name only form (“John”) when a friendlier opening greeting (“Hi”, “Hi John”) would be better
  3. Mixing up levels of formality by using both “Dear” and “Hi” (“Dear John, Hi” X)
  4. Using “To…” (“To John” X) like a birthday card instead of “Dear…” or “Hi…”
  5. Using title plus first name (“Dear Mr John” X, etc)
  6. Using title plus full name (“Dear Dr John Smith”) when title plus family name (“Dear Dr Smith”) would be more suitable (because it’s not a letter from your bank)
  7. Using full name (“Dear John Smith”) when you know the gender of the person and so could use the more formal and standard title plus full name (“Dear Prof. Smith”)
  8. Using title plus family name (“Dear Mr Smith”) when a friendlier opening greeting (“Dear John”, “Hi John”, “Hi”) would be more suitable (because you’ve known each other a long time, you are in the same company, they have addressed you that way, they ending the email with just their first name, etc)
  9. Using “Hello” (“Hello John”) when a more formal (“Dear John”, “Dear Mr Smith”) or friendlier (“Hi John”) greeting would be more suitable
  10. Wrongly guessing their gender and so using the wrong title (“Dear Mr Smith”) instead of using their full name to be safe (“Dear Kim Smith”, which is non-standard, but better than making a mistake with whether they are male or female)
  11. Including both titles just in case (“Dear Mr or Ms Smith” X)
  12. Using “Miss” or “Mrs” when they haven’t shown that they prefer that title and so “Ms” would be better
  13. Using a standard title when a special one like “Dr” would be more suitable (for example in the academic world, where academic journals often use “Dr” just in case)
  14. Wrongly guessing which part is their family name (“Dear Ms Kim” or “Dear Smith” when Kim is their first name and Smith is their family name) instead of googling that name to check or using their full name to be safe
  15. Using something which is not a title or not that kind of title in English (“Dear Engineer Smith” X, “Dear Minister Jones” X, etc)
  16. Using a description of who they are (“Dear CEO” X, “Dear my teacher” X, “Dear customer”) when you know their name
  17. Using a description of who they are (“Dear person who lives in number 23” X, “Dear section manager” X, “Dear HR department” X) when a more general and standard phrase for someone whose name you don’t know (“Dear Sir or Madam”, “Dear Sir/ Madam”) is more suitable
  18. Using an old-fashioned or wrong phrase that only includes one gender to address someone whose name you don’t know (“Dear Madam” X, “Dear Sir”, “Sir” X, etc)
  19. Using “To whom it may concern” when you are only writing to one person and basically know who they are but just don’t know their name, and so “Dear Sir/ Madam” or “Dear Sir or Madam” is much more suitable

 

Typical mistakes with email opening greetings to more than one person

  1. Mixing up levels of formality and so making strange combinations (“Hi all” X, “Dear guys” X, “Dear everyone” X “To everyone” X)
  2. Using “Dear” instead of “To…” with a description of who they are (“Dear new recruits” X, “Dear all members of the chess club” X)
  3. Using “Dear colleagues”, “Dear friends” or “Dear customers” when a more standard and/ or friendlier greeting (“Dear all”, “Hi everyone”, etc) would take away the feeling that a big and probably negative announcement is coming
  4. Using “Hi guys” to a group who might not like “guys” being used with mixed gender groups
  5. Using “Hi guys and gals” or “Hi guys and girls” with a group who might not like the fact that the word “guys” means “men”, but the female part literally means children

 

Typical mistakes with email opening lines

Typical mistakes with email opening lines mentioning the last contact between you

  1. Starting with straight down to business phrases like “I’m writing to you in order to…” when there has been recent contact (“Thank you for making the time to meet me last week”) which it would be friendlier or more polite to mention first instead
  2. Using “With reference to your email…” when “Thank you for your email” would be friendlier and/ or more polite
  3. Thanking them for something negative (“Thank you for your complaint about…” X) when a more standard “Thank you for your email” would be a more positive start
  4. Just using “Thank you for your email” when a more specific line (“Thank you for your email about…”, “Thank you for your email on Monday”, “Thank you for your enquiry about…”, etc) would help them remember which email and what its topic was
  5. Just using “Thank you for your email” when they have done more that you could thank them for (so “Thank you for sending me the info on…”, “Thanks for your advice on…”, “Thank you for your quick reply”, “Thank you for your detailed response”, etc would be better)
  6. Just using the standard “Thank you for your quick reply” when a more casual version (“Wow! That was quick!” etc) would be more suitable with someone is a close colleague, friend, etc
  7. Just using a standard mentioning the last face to face contact phrase like “Thank you for meeting me last week” when another phrase like “It was a pleasure to meet you last week” or “Thank you for your hospitality during my visit last week” would be better
  8. Using non-standard and/ or boring opening lines like “I received your email” X and “I read your email” X instead of more standard ones like “Thanks for your email”, “I just got your message” and “Just read your email about…”
  9. Thanking phrases which don’t make it clear what you are thanking them for (“Thanks”, “Thanks for your support always” X, “Thank you for your continuing support”)
  10. Apologising phrases that don’t make it clear what you are saying sorry for (“Sorry. Here is…”) instead of being more specific (“Sorry for my late reply”, “Sorry that I couldn’t make the meeting on Monday”, etc)
  11. Apologising for no contact with “Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve written” etc when there is no reason why you should have been in touch during that time
  12. Using “-ing” forms when actual nouns are needed (“Sorry for my late replying” X, “Thank you for your quick replying” X)
  13. Using “Long time no see!” when a more specific phrase would make it clear if you mean a long gap between email contact (“It was great to hear from you again”) or between face-to-face contact (“I can’t believe it is already two years since we last met”)

 

Typical mistakes with email opening lines with the subject/ reason for writing

  1. Using “I write about…” X when you mean “I’m writing about…”
  2. Using the standard “I’m writing to you about…” in a very formal situation when “I am writing to you concerning/ regarding/ with regards to…” would be better
  3. Using the starting “I’m writing to…” when the very formal “I am writing in order to…” would be more suitable
  4. Using a long phrase like “I am writing to you regarding…” to introduce an email which is not much longer than that phrase and so “Just a quick note to say…” etc or just “Hi John, Thanks, that’s great” might be more suitable
  5. Starting with “Re…”, “Regarding…” or “About…” when the longer and more standard “I’m writing about/ regarding…” would be more polite and also friendlier
  6. Using exactly the same “I’m writing about…” phrase as your last email, when “Thanks for your quick reply”, “Sorry, in my last email I forget to say…”, “Sorry, this is yet another email about…” etc would be better
  7. Missing out “As we discussed,…”, “As promised,…”, “As you can imagine,…” etc before “I’m writing about…” when those phrases would make the phrase more specific, make the situation easier to understand and make the email more personal

 

Typical mistakes with social email opening lines/ friendly email opening lines

  1. Writing “Nice to meet you” when you haven’t met (because an email is not meeting someone) or when you mean “It was great to meet you the other day at the cocktail party”
  2. Using the rather bland medium-formality “How are you?” or formal “I hope this email finds you well” when a friendlier version like “How’s it going?”, “How are things?” or “How are you doing?” would be more suitable
  3. Using general social opening lines like “How’s it going?” or “I hope you are well” when more specific phrases like “How was your weekend?”, “I hope your jet leg isn’t too bad after your flight back from New York”, “I hope you weren’t too affected by the recent typhoon” or “I hope that you are enjoying the cherry blossom” would be more personal and therefore better
  4. Using checking that there are no problems phrases like “Are you okay?” and “I hope you are okay” when you really just mean “How’s it going?”
  5. Using friendly social opening lines when getting straight down to business phrases like “I’m writing to you about…” would be more suitable (because it’s the first contact between you, etc)

 

Other typical mistakes with email opening lines

  1. No opening line
  2. More than two sentences in the opening line
  3. No split between the opening line and the first body paragraph
  4. An opening line apologising for something that you can’t know is true with phrases like “Sorry to bother you” X
  5. Starting emails with the very rare phrase “This is Alex Case” when you should be introducing yourself for the first time with “My name is…”
  6. Starting emails with the very rare phrase “This is Alex Case” when they already know that it’s you because of your email address, because of your name at the bottom of the email, because they originally wrote to you, etc
  7. Starting emails like a phishing scam with “My name is…” when you should start with the reason for writing and then introduce yourself in the body

 

Typical mistakes with ending emails

Typical mistakes with email closing lines

Typical mistakes with closing lines talking about the next contact between you

Typical mistakes with closing lines when you need a reply

  1. Writing the very impatient and therefore rude phrase “I’m waiting for your reply” when you mean “I’m looking forward to your reply”
  2. Writing the very pushy and therefore impolite phrase “I expect to hear from you soon” when you mean “I’m looking forward to hearing from you”
  3. Putting deadlines in the closing line instead of the body (“I’m looking forward to hearing from you by Friday” X, “I’m looking forward to hearing from you as soon as possible” X, etc)
  4. Missing the “-ing” after “look forward to” (“I look forward to hear from you” X)
  5. Mixing up “I look forward to…” (for very formal emails), “I’m looking forward to…” (dfor medium-formality emails, meaning most busines emails) and “Looking forward to…” (for informal emails)

 

Typical mistakes with closing lines offering more communication/ help (if needed)

  1. Mixing up “If you need any more information,…” and “If you have any (more) questions,…” (with sentences like “If you need any more questions,…” X)
  2. Mixing up “… please let me know” and “… please feel free to contact me” (“… please feel free to let me know” X)
  3. Mixing up the formality of “Should you have any further questions,…” (super formal), “If you have any further questions,…”, “If you have any more questions,…” and “Any more questions,…” (very casual)
  4. Mixing up the formality of “Should you require any further information,…” (super formal), “If you require any further information,…”, “If you need any more information,…” and “If you need any more info,…” (informal)
  5. Mixing up the formality of “… please do not hesitate to contact me” (very formal), “…please contact me”, “…please let me know”, “…just let me know” and “… just drop me a line” (very informal)
  6. Using standard offering more help phrases when more specific ones like “Please phone my mobile if you get lost” and “If you have any questions while I’m away, please also CC my boss so he can help too” would be more useful

 

Other typical mistakes with email closing lines mentioning the next contact between you

  1. Mixing up “I look forward to meeting you then” (which means meeting for the first time) and “I look forward to seeing you then” (which means meeting again)
  2. Mixing up “I look forward to seeing you” (which usually means that we have arranged a meeting or are trying to arrange something) and “(I) hope we have the chance to meet again soon” (which usually means that we may never meet again, like “See you sometime”)
  3. Mixing up “See you then” (which means face to face or maybe video conference) and “Speak to you then” (which is more general, and so is suitable for phone calls, etc)

 

Typical mistakes with email closing lines for (big) requests

  1. Mixing up “Thank you in advance” with “Thank you for your cooperation” (which is used for instructions/ commands/ orders, not requests, and usually only in group emails)
  2. Using the polite but quite heavy “Thank you in advance” when a more casual but lighter “Thanks” or “Cheers” would be okay (and therefore probably better)
  3. Using the polite but quite heavy “Thank you in advance” when the request is small enough to use the lighter “I’m looking forward to hearing from you”
  4. Using “I’m looking forward to hearing from you” for big requests where thanking in advance is needed
  5. Using “Thanks”, “Cheers” etc to end emails which aren’t requests (and so maybe making the reader waste their time reading through the email again to work out what they are being asked to do)
  6. Mixing up “greatly” and “gratefully” in sentences like “Any help you can give me on this would be gratefully appreciated” X

 

Typical mistakes with closing lines for instructions/ commands/ orders

  1. Using the polite but heavy “Thank you for your cooperation.” when the lighter “Thanks” or “Cheers” would be okay and therefore better

 

Typical mistakes with social closing lines/ friendly closing lines

  1. Mixing up “Hope you had a good weekend” (about the past, so usually an opening line) and “(Hope you) have a good weekend” (about the future, and so usually a closing line)
  2. Over-using “Take care” (which is only usually used before big changes like travel or never seeing each other again)

 

Typical mistakes with closing lines for apologies/ responses to complaints

  1. Mixing up “Thanks for your patience” (which means they will get what they want after waiting some time) and “Thanks for your understanding” (which usually means that they won’t get what they want)

 

Other typical mistakes with closing lines

  1. No closing line
  2. More than two sentences in the closing line
  3. Mixing up “Thanks” (which ends a request, or possibly instructions, and so is thanking them for their future action) and “Thanks again (for…)” (which is thanking them for something that they have already done)
  4. Thanking them for things that you can’t know are true like “Thank you for your kind attention”
  5. Missing the full stop at the end of the closing line (perhaps due to mixing up the punctuation of the closing line and the closing greeting)
  6. Combining your closing line and closing greeting (“Thanks and regards” X), perhaps in your automatic email signature

 

Typical mistakes with email closing greetings

  1. Using two capital letters in the closing greeting (“Best Regards” X, “Yours Sincerely” X, etc, perhaps due to mixing it up with “Dear Sir or Madam” in the opening)
  2. Using singular when plural is standard (“Best regard” X, etc)
  3. Using formal closing greetings like “Best regards” when you should be using friendlier ones like “Best wishes” (because the other person is someone you have often contacted and/ or because you are on first name terms)
  4. Always using the same closing greeting, perhaps because you’ve put it in your automatic email signature
  5. Using “Yours sincerely” with emails starting with “Dear Sir or Madam” or “Dear Sir/ Madam” (when it should be “Yours faithfully”, “Sincerely yours”, “Sincerely”, or “Best regards”)
  6. Using “Yours faithfully” with emails starting with “Dear Mr…”, “Dear Ms….” etc (when it should be “Yours sincerely”, “Sincerely yours”, “Sincerely”, or “Best regards”)
  7. Mixing up the formality of “Sincerely yours” (super formal), “Best regards”, “Yours”, “All the best” and “Best wishes” (informal)

 

Typical mistakes with writing your name at the end of emails

  1. Putting a title before your own name (“Yours, Mr Alex Case” X, which would perhaps be considered too proud)
  2. Not putting your title after your name in your first email even when that might mean that they get your gender wrong
  3. Signing off with just your family name (“Smith” X)
  4. Mixing up the formality of “A.M. Case (Mr)”, “Alex Case”, “Alex”, “Al”, “A” and nothing
  5. Only writing your name in your email signature, and so being too formal/ unfriendly for most situations and not making it clear when they can address you by your first name in their next email

 

Typical mistakes with punctuation at the beginning and end of emails

  1. Being inconsistent with punctuation by putting a comma only after the opening greeting or only after the closing greeting (instead of after both or after neither)
  2. Being inconsistent with punctuation by putting a point after some titles (“Dear Mr. Jones”) and not after others (“Best regards, Alex Case (Mr)”) when you should stick to either British or American style

Copyright © 2021

Written by Alex Case for UsingEnglish.com

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