Business Email Writing in English

Most of us in the business world use emails as the main, and in some cases the only, means of written communication.It is important for us to  practice our business email writing skills.

While most of us are happy to write informal emails to friends that might have grammatical mistakes, the same is not true when writing to clients with whom we want to make a good impression.

Formal and Informal Email Phrases Starting with Greetings.

Here are some general tips I’d like to share with you:

1. Subject Line

Always have a subject line that summarises briefly and clearly the contents of the message (example: Re: Summary of Our Meeting with ABC Suppliers).

2. Simplified Sentences

Don’t make your email look overcrowded by trying to use too many technical terms or long words. It is good to use complex and compound-complex sentences, but ensure that they are easy to understand.
The most common mistake that many of us make is to translate directly from their own language. This can often lead to confusing sentences. A popular rule that you could adapt is to – Keep It Short and Simple.

3. Think of who your reader is going to be

To whom are you writing? Is that a colleague, a client or your boss? Should the email be informal or formal? Most business emails these days have a neutral tone. Note the difference between Informal and Formal:

Informal – Thanks for emailing me on 15th February

Formal – Thank you for your email dated 15th February
Informal – Sorry, I can’t make it.

Formal – I am afraid I will not be able to attend
Informal – Can you…?

Formal – I was wondering if you could….?
Some emails to colleagues can be informal if you have a long working relationship and know them well. This is the style that is closest to speech, so there are often everyday words and conversational expressions that can be used. For instance, ‘Don’t forget’, ‘Catch you later’, ‘Cheers’.
The reader may also accept or overlook minor grammatical errors in informal emails. However, if the email is going to a client or senior colleague, bad grammar and an over-friendly writing style will most probably not be acceptable.

4. Be very careful of capital letters, punctuation, spelling and basic grammar

While these can be tolerated in informal emails, they are very important in business emails as they are an important part of the image you create. Give yourself time to edit what you’ve written before you push that Send button.
In today’s busy world, it’s very easy to send out many emails without checking them thoroughly: as an English learner, you should make a conscious effort to double check before sending.

5. Think about how direct or indirect you want to be

In some cultures, it is common practice to be very direct in email correspondence. However, this can cause a problem if you’re writing to someone in another country and in a language that is not your mother tongue. They might find your directness rude and possibly offensive.
Consider these:

Direct – I need this in half an hour.

Indirect and polite – Would it be possible to have this in half an hour.

Direct – There will be a delay

Indirect – I’m afraid there may be a slight delay.
Direct – It’s a bad idea

Indirect – To be honest, I’m not sure if that would be a good idea.
By adjusting your tone, you are more likely to get a positive response from your reader.

So decide on how your emails should speak.


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