If you are reading this guide, it is likely because you have been looking for a special kind of niche content in Japanese. There are plenty of sites that will use “sample media” to teach you Japanese – Animelon will use animation, NHK Easy Japanese will use news, WaniKani utilizes Kanji itself to teach related vocabulary, and so on. So what makes this site different? We use Japanese emails to not only teach you how to write emails in formal Japanese, but also how to use formal Japanese more generally. For any of you studying for the BJT, JLPT N2/N1, or entering/prepping to enter a Japanese company, this is for you! And as cliche as it may sound, I am writing this to be the kind of guide I wish I had had during my own Japanese study.

In a world of fantastic free online resources (many of which were fundamental in my learning), I hope to contribute back to this broader collection of information for Japanese learners.

The guide itself is under constant update and revision! Check back often for new updates, as below. Currently, this guide is structured in a ‘book’ format, with proposed chapters as below. Lastly, while this guide is written for beginners to email writing, it isn’t necessarily a guide for beginners of the language. You should be around an Intermediate level to be able to derive the maximum possible value from it.

With that, Happy Learning!


  1. Introduction
    a. What is lacking with existing resources?
    b. Baby steps – Simple Email Structure
    c. General Tips to Keep in Mind
    d. Key Basic Keigo Structures
    e. Formality Levels
  2. Thank you Emails
  3. Apology Emails
  4. Invites to Events / Visits
  5. Follow-up Emails – Post Meeting Emails (箇条書き)
  6. Sales Emails
  7. “Ongoing Project” Emails
  8. Update Emails
  9. Emails for well-wishes
  10. Out-of-office Emails
  11. Key words and phrases, and related synonyms – compilation
  12. 件名 – Types and Styles
  13. Very formal standard company emails (announcements etc)

(Note 1: Some overlap is expected across these different areas. Ultimately what I envision and hope for is not necessary for this guide to be fully comprehensive in nature (such as other sites like, and more as a good guide to get started, with the intention of continuing to update it with new lessons as time goes by (perhaps more similar to a Tofugu or Tae Kim’s Grammar Guide)
(Note 2: even native speaker’s sometimes disagree about how to write Keigo. This is being written with further consulting from native Japanese speakers, but given the degree to which people often disagree on what is ‘correct Keigo’, expect some variation.)

Chapter 1 – Why this guide? Introduction

a. What is lacking with existing resources?

I am starting this guide as I noticed very quickly when trying to proceed and improve my Japanese that there was a problem – too many books teach you set specific grammar, focus too much on high level literary Japanese, or jump to too high a level of 敬語 (Keigo), too quickly, without providing any more basic, simple overview of sentence structure. Japanese resources exist, but those are geared for Japanese-first language learners, and not for learners themselves. Most online resources covering these topics in English are too brief, unhelpful, or behind a paywall.
I am hoping to use this guide to show how to write a basic email, some options (a-la mad libs) to fill in with different words for different cases – Yonjijukugo, how to greet in an email apology phrases, greeting phrases, thank you phrases, overall grammar notes and sentence structure, useful English <> Japanese unit conversions and expressions, using Kanji and how to ask for name Kanji, and confirming a set plan via short email – to name a few.
Please note: in many cases, translations will be given that may be grammatically or sound-wise weird or odd in English, which is done in order to provide more accurate translation for the understanding of the reader. Some ‘rules’ or suggestions I provide may seem obvious, as they mirror general rules and best practices you would find for writing emails in other languages, such as English.

b. Baby Steps – Simple Email Structure

Let’s start out with the most basic structure for an email:


Intro いつもお世話になっております。「会社名」の「名前」です。

Thank you / Apology 資料を添付いただきありがとうございます。

Main Content / Follow Up こちらの件ですが、社内でシェアしまして返信を貰い次第折り返しメール致します「か、させて頂きます」。

Close 引き続き、よろしくお願い致します。


Hello (client name),

Thank you for your continued support. This is [Your Name] from [Company].

Thank you so much for sending over the file.

In regards to this topic, I will share it internally, and then as soon as I hear back I will follow up with you ASAP.

I hope to continue [to have a great relationship going forward], all the best.

(your name)

This article from LearnJapaneseDaily does a great job of giving more detail to this basic email structure. Borrowing from this article, see the below for greater detail:
“A proper Japanese email consists of seven parts, as below:
Table of Contents
1. 宛名 (あてな : receiver)
2. 挨拶 (あいさつ : greetings)
3. 名乗り (なのり : addressing yourself)
4. 要旨 (ようし : main body content)
5. 詳細 (しょうさい : Details)
6. 結びの挨拶 (むすびのあいさつ : Closing remarks)
7. 署名 (しょめい : name, signature)”

From this most basic sentence/email structure, it becomes possible to add and subtract a number of different elements, depending on the nature of the situation. Before jumping into additional examples, and with this in mind, I believe it to be useful to discuss (1) General Tips to Keep in Mind (2) an Overview of Basic Keigo Structures

c. General Tips to Keep in Mind

Importance of Apologies
You probably know this, but in Japan, you always apologize – even if you don’t have much/anything to apologize for. Apologies should typically be addressed at the whole organization as a whole, unless it is specifically your mistake. E.g. 私たちのミス and not あの人のミス. 責任を取りましょう!haha

Always put yourself into the position of the client
This may be pretty clear, but when you are responding to emails, it is always important to consider all sides in a given exchange, and to essentially ‘guess’ how they might feel, so that you can provide better service, and provide a more appropriate answer. This is basically a long way of saying K.Y., or 空気を読んで

Spell out things in Logical Order
A favorite concept of mine as it pertains to emails is 箇条書き, or the idea of writing things out clearly in itemized order, so that it is easier to read. You will see many examples of this in the guide, so keep an eye out.

Mind sentence syntax differences between English and Japanese
Japanese and English have different grammatical rules and styles, which flows into sentence length, and how you have to logically explain/flow your point. Keep in mind run-on or unclear sentences – reading lots of examples will help you with this!

Keigo isn’t for everyone!
A big, big mistake I often made at the beginning was not understanding a critical facet of Keigo, which is that (like all Japanese) it is highly context dependent. Which is to say, you wouldn’t use honorifics for your own team members in a client facing meeting, but then in another situation, you may need to show your 先輩 deference.
The point of 敬語 is not to be polite to everyone, all the time.

Making Mistakes – Part of the Journey
Don’t be too concerned from making mistakes all of the time – people don’t expect foreigners to speak perfect Japanese, let alone perfect 敬語. If you can get a tutor to help correct you as well, it can be of great value (this guide, and any guide, can never truly provide a full coverage of any, and all, give situations you may encounter).
(Story time: At the beginning of my learning, I once introduced myself attaching -san to my own name, and immediately got laughed at – all part of the journey!)

Consulting Resources
When in doubt, consulting Google and Native Speakers are a great resource (MyNavi type sites for young Japanese professionals can be a great resource when trying to decide between some slight differences in word choice).

Spoken & Written Japanese – Differences
Spoken Japanese and Written Japanese are different, and often, quite different, especially when it comes to formal Japanese (things you can ‘say’ may not be things you would ‘write’, and vice versa). Keep this in mind throughout your studies.

Repetition is ok!
A lot of emails you will send are likely to be procedural in nature, and you may find yourself using the same few phrases over and over. This is ok, and repetition of this sort is 100% to be expected in a number of instances (for example, ‘set phrases’ like よろしくお願いしますat the end of emails). English speakers often feel this sort of repetition is ‘odd’ somehow, while this is something of a standard ‘quirk’ of Japanese.

-This will be covered, but there are some standard things you’ll want to look out for in the Titles / Subject Lines of emails

Japanese vs. English (in Japanese!)
In many instances when trying to translate a word, you may be tempted to try and find an exact Japanese translation, otherwise, you may feel the need to use Katakana as a stand-in. This can lead to some long & unruly words or phrases, so in many cases, it may be better to simply use English, particularly when it comes to names & titles (think a long job title, like “partnership success manager”). This is easier to see via example, and you will come to figure out when is best to use one or the other. Do remember: every Japanese person knows at least some English! (it is compulsory in the education system).

Discerning Subjects through Grammar (& Word Choice)
A very common difficulty that Japanese speakers of all levels run into is when personal pronouns like わたし or われわれ should be used in the context of business, or whether it is obvious on context. In many cases, the answer of subject lies in the grammar – していただく for when someone does something for you, and させていただく for when I do something for you, all without the need for pronouns like あなた or わたし. Perhaps this much is obvious based on your level, but even things like choosing が or は, or される and する can similarly be used to communicate the sentence’s subject without the need to outright state it. This is also something that will become clear over reading more examples.

d. Key Basic Keigo Structures

Writing in Kanji vs. Hiragana
You may often come across a number of situations where you will see a word that very much has a Kanji, but is written in Hiragana. Simply put, it is typically more formal to write in Kanji than Hiragana. Seeing Hiragana is often a conscious effort on behalf of the speaker to write more casually.
This works in the reverse as well, where words that may be seen as being a bit less formal can be made more formal by the use of Kanji. A good example is 貰う, which can be written with Kanji, but may be also seen with just Hiragana.

In Keigo, there are 2 key structures you will see/hear to communicate about the request of, and response to, favors:
~させて頂きます。(when you are doing something for someone – literally ‘I am going to take the liberty to do XYZ for you)
~(して)頂きます。(when someone does you a favor – could you do XYZ for me?)
*Typically in written speech, the して is omitted, and is often combined with nouns. For example, if you want to say, “thank you for attending our event”)
イベントにご参加いただきありがとうございました。(past tense)

In the case of させていただく, it is more-or-less analogous in literal meaning to します・致します (i.e. “to do”). That said, given its higher level of formality, you want to make sure you don’t overuse it, otherwise it is a bit too ‘stiff’ & overdone.

2 other areas of note:
(1) Often in spoken speech, people swallow the させて so it may almost sound like they are saying さして
(2) When people want to sound more friendly, they may say / mix in させて貰う/もらう (remember that いただく is just the formal version of もらう, so this carries the same literal meaning)

While いただく is in standard formality, if you want to soften your statement a bit you can instead use 下さる・下さり, which corresponds to くれる in casual speech. According to Chisa (the Oracle!): “くださる is for when you want to sound formal, but not necessarily in a business setting”
Note: the difference here is only a small nuance difference, and いただく is much more common)

Thank you for attending our event.

Using the Potential Form to Express Possibility
A common construction in Keigo involves the use of potential form to express that it would be ‘nice if something were to happen’.
It is essentially the formal version of “できたらいいなー(と思う)”

This construction has a number of practical applications. Let’s explore a few:

Let’s start with using the construction with the standard verb “to be able” (できる). 

Using what we know about the potential form, this could be written in the following 2 ways:


Depending on the context, and how you write/say it, the subject could be either “you” or “me”.

For example, if you want to ask someone to attend your event, you can say:
It would be great if you could attend the event but, what do you think?

If you wanted to change the subject to “I” and say “it would be great if I could attend the event” you could easily rephrase this and say:
Note: ご is removed as you wouldn’t be formal to yourself

Generally I see できれば far more than できたら, though both are entirely valid. That said, in the same way that たら is typically considered as a less formal ば, the same holds true here, which is to say that できれば is usually a bit more formal.

Using ばと思う with other verbs
You can use this same construction with verbs other than できる. Thus, the structure becomes: potential form + らればと思います
It would be great if I could go to the event

Sometimes (esp. in spoken language), the extra “れ” is omitted in potential forms that have the られれば construction, since it could be said to be unnecessarily ‘long’  (be careful with this as many Japanese people would object to this as “not being correct” though its use has proliferated amongst younger people)

Combining Potential Form w/ Favors
Guess what! We can combine our knowledge in the prior section around Favors with the Potential Form to create additional grammatical constructions to express potentiality, create hypotheticals, and soften requests.

If you wanted to say “I would like to be able to do something for you”
If you wanted to say “It would be great if you could do this [for me]”

This is useful for all kinds of different constructions and requests. For example, if you wanted to say to someone “it would be great if you could attend our event”
If you are being invited to an event and are saying you would like to attend:

(There are many different ways to write this depending on the level of formality you wish to express – additionally, this may be considered ‘too wordy’ in some contexts, and a simple ご参加ください or ご参加よろしくお願いします could also work depending on context)

The ‘Verb-Noun Formality’ Rule – Honorific Conjugations
I am sure this has some more proper grammatical name, but I am simply calling it the ‘noun formality rule’ (Tae Kim refers to it as an “Honorific Conjugation”).
I am sure you have experience with the honorific suffixes, such as お and ご, in such common words & phrases like お水, ご質問 or お待たせしました.
To go further, other than just attaching these two suffixes on nouns, verbs are often turned into nouns by taking the ます stem, and adding お to the front. It can then be combined