Business English Lesson: ​Nine Tips for Emailing in English

Business English Lesson: ​Nine Tips for Emailing in English

Posted by Amy Gillett on 16th Aug 2018

TIP #1: Keep it short and simple.

As in all business writing, the most important thing is to be clear. Observe the “KISS” rule (Keep it Short and Simple). Say something as directly as you can. Keep in mind that emails that take up more than one full screen usually aren’t read right away.

Poor communication: too long and wordy:
I am writing to you to inform you of the fact that Comtek Industries is implementing a brand new ordering system for online orders. Henceforth, you will have the opportunity to use this APC system to place your orders, thereby saving you a great deal of time in your ordering process.

Much improved: short and to the point:
Comtek Industries now offers you the opportunity to place your orders online.

TIP #2: Use the active voice whenever possible.

Since you are now following tip #1 (keep your messages short!), be sure to use the active voice whenever you can. This is shorter and clearer. If, for example, you sent an earlier message with a wrong deadline, phrase your apology in the active voice, not the passive voice:

Active voice: I apologize for sending the wrong deadline.

~ versus ~

Passive voice: I apologize that the wrong deadline was sent. (Note: this would be appropriate IF your colleague sent the wrong deadline and you don't want to specify who is responsible!).

TIP #3: Use words you’d use while speaking instead of more formal words and phrases.

acknowledge receipt of

We acknowledge receipt of your letter dated March 12, 2010.

Thank you for your letter of March 12.
at the present time / at this moment in time

At the present time we have no plans to release a new version of the software package.

We currently have no plans to release a new version of the software package.
due to the fact that

Due to the fact that we missed our sales targets this quarter…

Because we missed our sales targets this quarter…
during which time / over the course of this period

Over the course of this period, we grew our revenues by 40%

We grew over revenues by 40% over this period.

Henceforth, all expense reports must be submitted within 30 days of travel.

From now on, all expense reports must be submitted within 30 days of travel.
in the event that

In the event that you cannot attend the conference…

If you cannot attend the conference…

TIP #4: Make the subject line clear and useful.

Did you know that the average business person receives 121 emails per day? You want to make sure your emails stand out and get read — a clear, compelling subject line is a great way to do that.

Urgent! Reply needed!                                           PLEASE REPLY: March expense report now due
Sales infoSales figures for third quarter
MeetingMarketing meeting today at 4PM
RussiaReport on Russian oil industry now available
Your orderYour order with Coffee Express has shipped!

TIP #5: If you have multiple points to make, organize them with either bullet points or numbers.

I'd like to raise a couple of issues with you:

  • Your last shipment to us was 4 days late.
  • Two of the items in your shipment were defective.

TIP #6: State your purpose early in the message.

Begin by letting your reader know why you are writing. Explain action items and priorities. Personal messages and well wishes are usually best kept for the end of the email, after your “business” is already stated.

The email will be much easier for your recipient to process. Also, your recipient will then be able to reference your points more easily in his or her response. (Example: Regarding point #4 in your email…).

TIP #7: When you’re all finished, go back and edit your email.  

Typos make you look unprofessional. Be extra careful not to mix up words such as homophones that even spell checker won’t catch, such as:

  • they’re / their / there
  • to / too / two
  • it’s / its
  • compliment / complement
  • some / sum

TIP #8: Run a check of your email through Grammarly to be extra sure you have no errors.

To check your emails for grammar and spelling errors, install the Grammarly browser extension. The basic version is free and you can find it here.

TIP #9: Always include your contact information at the end of your email.

Your recipient will appreciate quick access to your company name, address, phone and fax number, and Skype ID. If you are using social media for business, considering including links to those profiles too, such as LinkedIn and Twitter.