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Writing Business Email: The Opening Paragraph / Effective Referencing

16 Feb 2021

emailThe aim of the opening paragraph in a formal business email is generally to:

  • make reference to previous correspondence/communication
  • say how you found the recipient's name/address
  • say why you are writing to the recipient.

The opening paragraph is important. A good opening should make clear the purpose of your email.

Here, we’ll present you with a number of common functional phrases for referencing different situations.

Reference to Previous Correspondence

Sometimes you may receive a letter or fax from a client or colleague but choose to reply by email.

I have received your fax of 15 April concerning…..
I refer to your letter of 1 March regarding……

But mostly you will reply to emails. You may think it’s unnecessary to include the date since it’s recorded in the email header, but in formal emails it’s still good practice to include it, especially if some time has elapsed between the initial email and your response. If you are responding on the same day, you can omit the date.

In reply to your email of 8 May, I would like to inform you that….
With reference to your email of 12 December, I.....
In response to your email, I am happy to confirm...
With regard to your email, I…..
Further to your email...., I…. (Further to sounds over-formal and is included in this list for reference only.)


After the reference expression you must always have a comma and a second part to the sentence.

Incorrect: With reference to your email.

This sentence is incomplete since it lacks a subject and verb.

Correct: With reference to your email, I can confirm that the invoice has been paid.

This sentence is complete.

Reference to Your Own Previous Correspondence

Sometimes you may need to follow up on your own earlier correspondence if you haven’t yet received a reply.

I refer to my email to you on 14 June concerning…..
We/I recently wrote to you about ...
On 5 May, I emailed you about…..
Further to my fax on 2 September regarding ……, I……

Reference to Previous Verbal Communication

You may have spoken to someone on the phone or at a meeting and will need to refer to this in your opening.

I refer to the conversation we had on Tuesday about…..
Following our phone conversation this morning, I…..
Further to our meeting last week, I…..
Regarding the discussion we had on the phone last week, I….

Reference by Thanking

A polite way to start your email is to thank someone for their correspondence to you or for meeting you.

Thank you for your email of 14 June.
Thank you for your email regarding ...
Thank you for your e-mail about ...
Thank you for your email requesting…
Thank you for your fax enquiring about….
Thank you for your email enquiry about…..
Thank you for meeting me on Monday.
Thank you for showing me around your premises last week.

Saying Why You’re Writing

I am writing with reference to your enquiry of 6 November.
I am writing in connection with your email of 1 May enquiring/requesting…

Making Reference to Questions

If you have received correspondence in which the writer asked you a question, you can start your reply with these phrases.

In response to the questions in your email, I am writing with further information.
With regard to the questions you raise in your fax, I would like to clarify certain issues.
In answer to your question about……., I……

Replying to Someone's Request

If you have received correspondence in which the writer has asked you to do something, you can start your reply with these phrases.

As you requested, I am enclosing a brochure about our company.
As you suggested, I am sending you my CV.
In answer to your enquiry, I have attached material which I hope will be useful to you.
As promised, I have attached...
Regarding your request for information on……, I.....

Making Reference to Something your Reader Knows

If you are writing to confirm something that has been previously discussed, you can use these phrases.

As we discussed, I am going to propose a merger of the sales and marketing departments.
As you may already know / have heard, the Director of the company is going to step down at the end of the year.
As previously agreed, the construction can proceed on 1 November.

Making Reference to Something You’ve Seen

If you are writing about a notice or advertisement posted somewhere, you should refer to it including where and when you saw it.

I refer to your advertisement for the position of……..on……
After having seen your advertisement in ..., I would like ...
Further to your advertisement in …… on 1 February, I…..
I would like to apply for the position of .... advertised in..... on.....

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