12 Tips for Writing Effective Emails in English

Writing emails in English with the correct greeting, message and tone can be difficult when English is not your first language.

In this video, I share 12 tips on how to writing clear and effective emails in English.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

All the best!


Here is the full transcript:

Hi. I’m Paul Urwin from BusinessEnglishCommunity.com. Welcome. First of all, don’t forget to subscribe, because we’ve got some awesome videos on the way.

And in today’s video, I’m going to be talking about email. Specifically, I’m going to give you 12 tips for writing business emails in English. Coming right up.

Okay, well let’s get started with the 12 tips.

Tip #1 is to write a concise and appropriate subject line. With millions of emails being sent every day all over the world — and I’m sure you receive and send hundreds of emails on a regular basis — the subject line is really, really important. Don’t write something that is too long and complicated. Keep it short, but keep it relevant and keep it to the point. That’s tip #1, a concise and appropriate subject line.

#2: Choose the right greeting. Now, we must remember that email is not quite as formal as writing a letter. And therefore, you need to choose your greeting carefully. Sometimes, writing something like “Dear Mr. Jones,” may be the right way to go. It also depends on your relationship with the person to whom you are writing. Do you know them already? Have you had previous email exchanges with them? But sometimes, something like “Dear Mr. Jones” may be just that little bit too formal. You might prefer to go with something like “Hi, Michael.” “Hi, Michael.” Of course, it does depend on the relationship that you have with that person.

Another way to decide which is the right way to go is to see how that person addressed you. If they have already written an email to you, then perhaps the best advice I can give is to write back using the same level of greeting. Sot hat’s #2. Choose the appropriate greeting.

#3: Make a positive statement. After the greeting, I like to make a positive statement, just to get the email off in the right way. Something like, “I hope you’re well.” “I hope you are well.” Something short, friendly, kind, just to sort of set the scene before we get into the main part of the email. So that’s #3. Make a positive statement.

#4: State your purpose clearly. You’re not going to be writing a book, so you want to get down to business now. This is a business email that we are talking about after all, so state why you are writing. “I am writing to ask for an update on the accounting situation.” “I am writing to ask for an update on the financial situation.” Whatever it might be, state your purpose clearly. That’s #4.

#5: Keep it short and simple. Do not go on and on and on and on. You are not writing a book. You need to get your message out using clear and direct language, something that’s easy for the receiver to read and to respond to. So keep it short and keep it simple. That’s #5.

#6: Keep the tone in mind. Letter writing was a very formal exercise with many requirements or many rules as to exactly how you should write that particular letter. Now that we are in the Age of the Email, an email is somewhat less formal than a letter, but it’s not as informal as, let’s say, texting. There are some rules, some rules of etiquette that you should adhere to when writing in English.

But just make sure you really understand that tone. When you are talking to someone face-to-face, it’s really easy to understand if they’re angry, or if they are happy or if they are speaking softly or speaking loudly or whatever it might be. But when you are writing an email, that message, that tone is much more difficult to establish. So choose your words clearly. That’s #6. Keep tone in mind.

#7: Use the active voice. Don’t write write something like, “The decision was taken by the board last Thursday,” when you could write, “The board took the decision last Thursday.” It’s more direct. It’s simpler. And it’s better for business communication. Use the active voice.

#8: Write numbers as numbers. Of course, there are many situations in English where it’s correct, technically, to write the number out. 2 would be T-W-O. But within an email, in these modern times, I think it’s clearer and more appropriate to use a number. Research has shown that when people scan an email, they are able to hone in on the numbers much more easily if they are written as numbers and not as words. So that’s #8. Write numbers as numbers.

#9: Keep a folder with templates. If you previously written an email, and if you’ve had it checked by a native speaker and you know it’s correct and you’ve used it before, well, save it in a folder of templates on your email system. Then, when you need a similar email, all you need to do is change the names and the locations, change a few pieces of information and you’re good to go. Make life easy for yourself. As a non-native speaker, you don’t want to reinvent the wheel every time you need to write a new email. Use templates.

#10: Run your email through a spell-checker. Please. If you are a non-native speaker, in fact, even if you are a native speaker, it makes sense to run your email through a spell-checker before you hit Send. If your email provider doesn’t come with a built-in spell-checker, copy the document across to Word and check the spelling there. Make sure you have no mistakes. We don’t want the reader to be focusing on your language. We want them to be focusing on your message.

#11: Ask a colleague to review. Many non-native speakers don’t ask for enough help. Don’t let that be you. If you need help, ask, please. Ask a native-speaking friend to review your email, and then you have a template set up that you know is good for the future. That’s #11. Ask a colleague to review.

And #12: Choose an appropriate ending. Again, with emails being slightly less formal than a letter, it’s not usual to encounter endings such as “Yours sincerely” or “Yours faithfully” in an email, although there are times when they could be appropriate. More normal or more usual is to use something like, “Best regards” or “All the best.” “Best regards” or “All the best.” Something slightly less formal, just to wrap up the email.

Okay, thanks very much for watching. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments in the section below. Also, don’t forget to subscribe. And if you did enjoy the video, please give me a big thumbs up. All the best, and until next time.

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