There is far more advice available on how to write formal emails than there is no how to be friendly by email, but in some ways the latter is just as difficult and as important for making a good impression. This article gives tips and useful phrases for how to be friendlier in emails. For classroom practice of emailing, including lots on formal and informal emails, see https://www.usingenglish.com/e-books/teaching-emailing/
How to be friendly at the beginning of emails
Friendly email opening greetings
Friendly opening greetings in emails to one person
The standard informal opening greetings to one person are “Hi John” and just “Hi”. The version with their first name is usually better as it shows that you are thinking about who you are writing to, but just “Hi” is a nice variation sometimes, especially in very short positive emails like “Hi, That’s great! Thanks a million. BW, Alex”. This is friendlier than the also standard “John, That’s great…”, which, like saying the same thing face to face, shows that you are getting straight down to business without any friendly chitchat first. Just writing “J, That’s great…” perhaps shows that you feel close enough to be so super informal, and so can also be a good variation on always using “Hi John”. “Hello” is mainly used in “Hello again”, usually in emails like “Hello again, Sorry, in my last email I forgot to say that…”
Some people try to make opening greetings even friendlier by adding exclamation marks, but you should think about what they would mean in face-to-face communication. It can be quite annoying and seem insincere if someone greets you in the office every day with “Hi John!”, as they can hardly be so surprised and/ or delighted to see you every single day. It can therefore seem just as annoying and insincere to start every email with “Hi John!”. Instead, this should be saved for when you genuinely are surprised and/ or delighted to hear from them, as in “Hi John! It was lovely to hear from you again. How long has it been?”
You will have noticed that “Hi…” goes with first names, and you generally need to be on first name terms to use that greeting, meaning that it’s not really possible to make “Dear Mr Smith” friendlier if you don’t know or shouldn’t use their first name. However, although it’s not standard, it might be okay to write “Hi Mr Smith” to an old family friend or “Hi Dr Jones” to a professor who you know very well but has never asked you to use his or her first name. If the other person is still addressing you by your title and family name, the best way to signal that they are free to use your first name is to sign off with just that, as in “Dear Dr Jones,… All the best, Alex”
It’s not common to make “Dear Sir or Madam” more informal as first contacts tend to be formal, but in some situations you could perhaps use just “Hi”.
Friendly opening greetings in group emails
Perhaps the most common friendly opening greeting to groups of people is “Hi guys”, but some people don’t like this. This is because “guys” originally just meant “men” and so it could be considered as sexist as “All men are created equal” or “Dear Sirs”. However, the other options of “Hi guys and gals”/ “Hi guys and girls” are just as bad because they use a term that means children to address the females in the group.
The other options are the slightly less casual “Hi everyone” and just “Hi”, with “Hi!” possible for situations when you might say the word that way like introducing yourself for the first time.
Ones with “Dear…” like “Dear all” are more formal, and “Dear colleagues” or “Dear customers” sound to me like bad news is coming and so should be avoided otherwise.
Friendly email opening lines
Friendly email opening lines when you have had recent contact
If you have a received an email from the other person, it’s easiest, best and friendliest to mention it with expressions like “Thanks for…” Just “Thanks for your email” sounds like something that you write every time and so don’t really feel thankful about, so that boring phrase should be replaced with something more specific and so personal like “Thanks a lot for your feedback on my PowerPoint. It really helped me improve it”, “Thanks for your questions about my presentation. It’s nice to know someone took an interest!” or “Thanks for letting me know about…”
Similar phrases are also good when you have had some other contact recently, as in “Thank you for the message which you left for me yesterday”, “Thanks so much for your hospitality when I visited Prague last week” and “Thanks for taking the time to meet with me on Monday”. Note that stronger phrases like “Thanks a lot/ a million/ so much for…” should be saved for situations where could feel especially grateful, as “Thanks a million for the staff meeting yesterday” sounds weird. Exclamation marks should also only be used sparingly, mainly in short emails which are specifically to thank someone like “Hi John, Thanks, that’s absolutely perfect! Best, Alex”
Similar suitable strong phrases include saying how nice the contact is, as in “It was so nice to hear from you again. How have you been?” and “It was so nice to meet you at the networking party last night. I didn’t expect that there would be any other particle physicists there!”
Friendlier social email opening lines
When there hasn’t been recent contact, it’s best to start with a small-talk-like social line before getting down to business. The standard phrases “How are you?” and “I hope you are well” are not so friendly, as people use them all the time without really thinking about who they are communicating with, and they aren’t really asking for personal information. “What’s up?” and “Alright” are more casual but not really friendlier, as they are also not actually asking for personal information. More casual versions which usually get more detailed personal answers like “How’s it going?”, “How are you doing?”, “How are things?” and “How’s life?” are slightly better. However, if possible it’s best to use something more specific like “How was your weekend?”, “How was your trip to New York?”, “I hope you are recovering from your jetlag”, “Just read about the typhoon where you are. Hope you are okay”, “I was sorry to hear about…” and “Congratulations on…”
You should then be ready to get down to business, perhaps with an informal phrase like “Sorry to write out of the blue, but…”, “No rush on this, but…” or “Just a quick note to say…” Very short getting down to it phrases like “Re…” and “About…” are also informal, but definitely not friendly.
Although it’s not usually necessary, you may want to answer the small talk question that the other person asked in their email before or after a similar (but not identical) social phrase to them, as in “Hi John, Trip to New York went really well, thanks. How’s the weather in Bangkok now? Has the monsoon started?” or “Hi John, Hope you are enjoying the cherry blossom season. I’m afraid the typhoon blew it all off the trees here, but luckily no major damage”. Note that very general responses like “Hi John, Really well, thanks….” doesn’t work, as the other person will probably have forgotten what they asked.
Being friendly in the body of the email
Most people know that the longer phrase “I would be grateful if you could…” is more polite and makes a request softer than simply asking “Can you…?” It is not so obvious that informal language like idioms can have a similar effect in casual emails. For example, “Can you lend me a hand with…?” is often better than “Can you help me with…?”, perhaps because it shows that I feel that we know each other well enough to use such informal language. Similar casual language that can make the body of an email friendlier include:
- You don’t happen to know..., do you?
- Can you fill me in on…?
- Got any info on…?
- Soooo sorry about that!
- Bad news, I’m afraid.
- Just a quick heads-up on…
- Getting on okay with…?
- Do you fancy…?
- Sounds great!
Note that bare infinitive imperatives like “Please tell me…” are pushy or even aggressive, although the imperative is fine in offers like “Just let me know if…”
How to be friendly at the end of emails
Friendly emails closing lines
The great thing about the standard email closing line “I’m looking forward to hearing from you” is that it literally means that I’m excited about your reply, and so variations on it are suitable for a wide range of situations. The more casual version “Looking forward to hearing from you” works for many informal business situations such as writing to colleagues. Versions about other contact like “Looking forward to seeing you then” are also very useful and quite friendly, with “Hope we have the chance to meet again soon” also good if that is the situation. Similar friendly phrases for friends and family include “Write soon”, “Keep in touch”, “Can’t wait to see you again” and “(Really) hope you can come”.
For bigger requests, the standard business line “Thank you in advance” is particularly unfriendly as it seems to be rather heavily saying “Don’t forget what I asked you”, which is probably why it isn’t used on the phone or face to face. If at all possible, you should therefore switch to the more casual versions “Thanks” or “Cheers” or one of the waiting for a reply phrases described in the previous paragraph.
Friendly closing lines when the exchange is possibly finished can also just be variations on the standard business phrase, with “Any more questions, just drop me a line” just a more casual version of “If you have any more questions, please feel free to contact me”.
Especially if you don’t need to do any of those transactional things in the closing line, the friendliest closing sentence is one giving good wishes for the future like “Have a good weekend”, “Hope your presentation goes well” and “Best of luck with your match”. Specific phrases are again better than general ones like “Take care” and “Best of luck”.
If you haven’t done so in the body, it can also be nice to end with mentioning other people in phrases like “Say hi to Jane from me” and “Give my love to Steve”.
Other closing lines that could go in informal emails include “Thanks again (for…)”, “Hope that helps”, “Sorry I couldn’t be more help” and “Sound OK?”
Friendly email closing greetings
Perhaps the only truly friendly closing greetings are very informal ones that we use with close friends and family like “Lots of love”, “Hugs and kisses”, “XXX” and “XOXO”. However, it’s certainly common in business to appear unfriendly by overusing “Best regards” with people like colleagues, long-term customers, and people who have already switched to more casual language in their emails. In general, I recommend following the other person, or to be as casual as you can within the limits of that situation. Everyone has their own idea on this, but I’d rank more casual closing greetings that can also be used in friendly business emails in this way, with the most formal top:
- Kind regards
- All the best
- Best wishes
In addition, “Bye for now” is nice when you’ve promised to email again soon. If you used “Cheers” to end a casual request, you probably doesn’t need a closing greeting, as “Cheers” kind of means “Thanks and bye”.
Writing your name at the end of friendly emails
As with closing greetings, the best approach with names is often to follow the other person, for example using just your first name when they address you with that name or sign off with just their own first name. If you want to initiate that but think they might not be comfortable with it, you can write just your first name but then include your automatic email signature so that they know your family name and title if they want to use that.