Email is an essential tool for business communications, but poorly written business emails by non native English speakers can cause tension and confusion in the workplace.
If like many non-native English speakers, you are worried about how professional your email communication is then keep reading...
Top Tips for Writing Business Emails in English
Writing and receiving emails has become a part of everyday life, both in private and business correspondence and It’s not unusual to be worried about your email writing.
In fact native English speakers also have the same concerns and there are many strategies that both native and non native English speakers should adopt to make sure their email communication is clear and effective.
1. Don’t email colleagues unless you really need to
Statistics from the Radicati Group estimated the number of emails received by the average office working back in 2015 was 121 per day!
That’s a lot of emails to read and respond to.
A huge sources of stress at work is the sheer volume of emails arriving in inboxes. So, before you begin writing an email, ask yourself: "do I need to send this email, or would a quick conversation (face to face or on the phone) be more productive?"
There are many circumstances in business when speaking to someone in person is a much more effective way to communicate and share information than an email.
2. Use your email subject line wisely.
Your email subject is the first thing that someone reads. It determines whether they are going to open the email, leave it to read another time or delete it.
Make sure your email subject line is simple and specific so the reader knows what your email is about.
To really make things clear, you could state in the subject what action you require the recipient to take:
"For you approval - quote for office refurbishment"
"Comment required - draft sales and marketing report"
"For info only - latest project update"
This helps your recipient to efficiently manage their email, understand what they need to do rather than burying the action someone in the email body. The recipient doesn't even have to open the email to understand it's importance.
This can really help you to get timely responses.
3. Keep your email short and snappy
Bearing in mind the quantity of emails people receive, being clear and precise with your message is very important.
Keep sentences short and the information direct and informative.
You should define the purpose of your email at the very start of your message to help the reader instantly understand what the email is about and why you are getting in touch.
4. Structure your email well
Business emails need to follow certain rules in terms of greetings, closings and thankings. Get these right and your email will come across professionally and fluently to native English readers.
Here are a few common phrases you can use in business emails in the English language.
Greeting the recipient
If your relationship with the reader is formal, use their family name (eg. "Dear Mr. Evans"). If you don’t know the name of the person you are writing to, use: "To whom it may concern" or "Dear Sir/Madam".
Dear Firstname Lastname
Dear Mr./Ms. Lastname
Dear Mr./Ms. Firstname Lastname
Dear Dr. Lastname
To whom it may concern
Thanking the recipient
If you are responding to an email you may need to start by thanking the sender for their email.
Thank you for contacting xxx
Thank you for your prompt reply
Thank you for getting back to me
Stating your purpose
If you are starting the email communication, begin by stating your purpose.
I am writing to enquire about
I am writing in reference to
Thank your reader one more time and add some polite closing remarks.
Thank you for your patience and cooperation
Thank you for your consideration If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to let me know I look forward to hearing from you.
Ending/closing your email
The last step is to include an appropriate closing with your name.
Yours sincerely, (formal when you know the name of the recipient)
Best regards, or Kind regards, (Most common)
Take care, Thank you, or Have a nice day (Less Formal)
5. Be Polite and check your tone
Emails in the workplace often can be less formal than traditional letters. But any emails you send at work are a reflection of your own professionalism and attention to detail so you should maintain a level of formality.
Unlike face to face or telephone communication, an email gives no other way to interpret the message being sent other than through the words you write. There is no body language, facial expressions or intonation of voice so messages can be misunderstood.
Check how your email "feels" emotionally. If your intentions or emotions could be misunderstood, find a better way to phrase your words.
6. Proofread, proofread, proofread
STOP! Don’t send your email yet!
What ever you are writing and who ever it is to, and how ever good your English is, you should never hit “send” without taking a moment to review what you have written.
Use the spell check on your email and watch out for autocorrects. Spelling mistakes are easy to make and the autocorrect function can create confusion if it inaccurately swaps a word.
When you are proofreading, have another look at how long your email is, can it be trimmed and made more concise?
How to improve your English language business emails
Even once you have mastered all of the above and are confident that you know how to structure a business email, there are plenty of ways you can continue to improve your english email fluency.
Practice. As with everything related to learning a foreign language, practicing is the best way to improve.
Ask your language teacher to read some of your past emails and mark up where you have made mistakes or used grammar which is less suited to the business environment.
Read, read, read. Read company blogs, industry magazines, brochures, reports and anything else you can get your hands on.
This will help you to improve your understanding of general grammar, and specific technical jargon.
Look at emails you have received from native English speakers at work and make a note of phrases they use, the type of language, and formality of language that is appropriate in your workplace.
Make a note of anything new you discover and anything you don’t understand so you can look it up and ask your language teacher to help you.
Create a workplace dictionary. Write down expressions, niche jargon and phrases you hear or read at work.
Having these documented will help you to remember them but also give you a great reference point for when you are at your desk trying to compose that all important email to a senior colleague.
Participate in industry forums and online chats. Writing in English is one thing, thinking in English will take you to another level of language skills.
Online forums are a dynamic environment, which requires speedy action on your part and will help you to think in English before you then write in English.
How we help our students with email writing at BLC
At BLC (Bristol Language Centre) are passionate about helping you reach your goals in English.
We offer flexible business English language courses for individuals or groups focusing on practical English language for you to use in the workplace and international business communication.
We encourage our business English students to bring specific examples of email communication or scenarios they want to discuss so that we can tailor our lessons to meet their needs.
All of our students at BLC are encouraged to join in our social programme to meet new friends and learn more about Bristol and the UK and meet native English speakers to further enhance their language skills while they are staying here with us.
Our social programme is packed with a range of activities for you to enjoy and meet new people….as well as practicing your English pronunciation of course!
This is our current social programme
We are a British Council-accredited school which is a member of English UK and Quality English, a UK Border Agency (UKBA) Highly Trusted Sponsor and inspected by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI).
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