Emails have become just another part of our daily lives which we give little consideration to. However when it comes to business emails and writing them in English as a non-native English speaker, then they need a little extra care and attention.
Business emails have a certain style and structure, which you can master by following this simple guide. We talk you through the type of appropriate greetings and endings, the tone, and some common phrases to help you write the most professional emails in English.
1. Short and sweet subject lines
The average business person receives around 80-100 emails a day. The subject line can be the difference between your email being read or being sent to the trash can.
The subject line should sum up the content of your email in about 6-8 words. Why? Because a typical inbox only shows about 60 characters of a subject line and on mobile, even less. You want your reader to know instantly what your email is without opening it, so that they can prioritize.
Here are a few examples of good subject lines that will get your email open, read and get a response:
- Thoughts needed on new design
- Employee survey – please complete by Friday
- Free for catch up coffee tomorrow?
- Marketing manager interview follow-up
Always open your email by greeting the recipient. Greetings can be different depending on your relationship with the reader.
If the relationship is formal then use their family name, for example, ‘Dear Mr Smith’.
You can start with ‘Hi Sally’ if you’re emailing a colleague who you are on friendly terms with, otherwise, ‘Dear Sally’ is slightly more formal and more appropriate.
If you don’t know the name of the person you are emailing you can either write ‘To whom it may concern’ or ‘Dear Sir/Madam’.
3. Say Thanks
If you are replying to an email, you should thank them for getting in touch. Depending on the communication you can use some of the examples below:
- Thank you for your email and your interest in X company.
- Thanks for your quick response to my email.
- Thanks for getting back to me.
- Thank you for contacting me.
Thanking the reader puts them at ease, and is a polite way to begin your email conversation.
4. State your purpose for writing
If you’re the person initiating the email communication then you can’t really thank the reader! Instead, begin your email by stating your reason for writing with sentences like, ‘I am writing in reference to…’ or ‘I am writing to enquire about…’
You should make your purpose clear in one sentence and then move on to the main body of the email.
5. Keep it short and simple
Noone has time to read long-winded emails, and you probably don’t have the time to write them either! Emails are a quick and easy way to send information to colleagues and clients, there’s really no need to include complicated sentences. Keep that for academic writing.
Sentences and paragraphs should be short and direct, in fact some entrepreneurs suggest emails should be no longer than 5 sentences!
If you have a lot of actions, requests or details then bullet points are acceptable. You can also include headings to separate information to help make it easier and faster to understand at a glance.
6. Formal vs. Informal
The majority of business emails are more formal, unless we know the reader very well. If you are unsure which tone to use, always err on the side of caution and go with formal. You can always follow their lead and when they switch to ‘Hi’ instead of ‘Dear’ you can do the same.
7. Passive voice vs. active voice
The active voice is more direct, easier to understand, carries more authority and is more concise than the passive. Using the active voice means your sentences focus on the most important person or thing doing the action. This makes instructions and information easier to read and understand.
8. Closing Remarks
Once you have the body of your email complete, it is customary to end with a closing sentence. It can be to thank the reader once more, or to invite them to ask questions. Here are a few common closing phrases which you can adapt to your own business emails:
- Once again, thank you for your time and consideration.
- I look forward to hearing from you soon.
- If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
- We look forward to receiving your submission.
9. The Ending
When you are sending business email it’s important to end in a professional manner. You should consider the relationship you have with the reader. Is it the first time communicating with them? Have you met before? What is their status/position in the business?
If you are close friends or close colleagues, then less formal endings are acceptable. However, as we mentioned earlier, if you’re unsure, always opt for the more formal.
For more formal emails you can end with:
- Yours sincerely
- Best regards
- Kind regards
- Best wishes
Then, provide your full name, and perhaps your job title and company, especially if you are corresponding with someone from outside the company. If it’s not already included in your email signature, you should also include your contact details.
For less formal endings which are still polite you may consider using:
- Take care
- Thank you
- Have a nice day
- Many thanks
- Yours truly
These endings are more suitable for people you have met before or have emailed on a number of occasions.
The formatting of the end of your email should look something like this:
Once again, thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Marketing Manager, This Company
000 654 762 289
That’s all there is to writing professional business emails in English. But, before you press ‘send’ make sure you proofread your email for any typos, and errors!