Writing an E-mail in English

For every language there is a certain e-mail etiquette that needs to be followed. Writing an e-mail isn’t the same as writing a business letter so the aim of this blog is to give you a brief guide to the current greetings, closings and formalities of writing in a professional context.

Subject

Always give the message a subject as e-mails without titles may be left unopened. Keep the title brief and to the point.

What greeting and ending should you use?

If you don’t know the name of the person, the most appropriate greeting to use is ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ and end with either ‘Kind regards’ or ‘Sincerely’ in a professional context.

If you do know the name of the person, you use ‘Dear + Title + Surname’ e.g. Dear Mrs Ireland and again end with ‘Kind or Best regards’.

In English, once you have e-mailed someone several times, it’s likely you’ll start addressing each other by your first names. The tone of the e-mail is also much friendlier even if it is still in a professional context. So you’re likely to greet the person by ‘Dear + their name’ and end with either ‘Kind or Best regards’.

Context

Opening

You usually start your message by addressing any previous contact if applicable e.g.

  • Thank you for your message.
  • Thank you for your quick reply.
  • As per my earlier email…
  • Apologies for my delay in responding.
  • Thank you for taking the time to meet me yesterday.
  • With reference to your phone call today
  • In reply to your e-mail…

If you know the person a little better and have e-mailed several times previously, you could use something along the lines of ‘I hope you are well’.

For an opening with no previous contact you should use the following and introduce yourself if applicable:

  • I am writing to you regarding…
  • My name is ___ and I work for ___
  • I am writing to inform/confirm…
  • I am writing to enquire about…
  • With reference to… (your advertisement in)

Body

If you need to add any more information, it should be kept brief and clear. Each point should be separated into paragraphs and there should be no more than 5. Also, make sure it’s in a logical order and that you have not drifted from the topic.

Closing

The last paragraph should clearly state (politely) any action required or what should happen next with phrases such as:

  • Could you please…?
  • I would be grateful if…
  • I look forward to your reply.
  • Please get back to be as soon as you can.
  • Thank you in advance.
  • Thank you for your cooperation
  • If you need any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me

Signature

Include your name at the end of the message as well as a title and the name of the company e.g.

Kind regards
Tanya Ireland
Director
TM International

Attachments
Any attachments can either be stated at the start of your e-mail – ‘I have attached…’ or at the end before the signature – ‘Enc. Document Title’.

In addition, any attachment should be named appropriately as, if the title is too vague, the receiver could have doubts as to whether they should open it due to viruses.

Tips

  • Watch out for formality, if you are unsure, it is always best to address someone formally.
  • Double-check your grammar and spelling, if you are rushed you often don’t.
  • Check that your message is clear and gets straight to the point.
  • We have noticed that in English ‘next’ refers to the day of the next calendar week; there can be confusion over the actual dates so we recommend writing the full date in the e-mail.
  • Writing dates: rather than ‘Friday 24th of January 2014’ – it should be written ’Friday 24 January’.

Example e-mail:
Context: this e-mail is from an assistant (Jane), her boss (Mrs Ireland) has asked her to write an e-mail to a client (Mr Taylor) to reschedule as she can no longer attend a meeting that was arranged for the next day.

To:                         ****@****.fr
Subject:               Reschedule meeting 24/01

Dear Mr Taylor

I am writing to inform you that Mrs Ireland unfortunately can no longer attend the meeting tomorrow. Could we reschedule it for Tuesday 28 January at 14:00?

If not, she is also available on Wednesday between 14:00 and 18:00.

Thank you in advance.

Kind regards,
Jane Little
Bilingual Assistant
TM International

New Year Resolutions

As the New Year starts, many of us are already thinking about making (or breaking) New Year resolutions without necessarily knowing why. The tradition, according to the Royal Holloway University, dates back to our Roman ancestors. New Year’s Day was a celebration of the God Janus, with two faces – one looking at the past and the other at the future; it was an opportunity for the Romans to reflect on their personal values.

So every year, millions of people reflect on their lives and make promises to change certain aspects or do new things. The majority of us make these promises because we need to give our life direction, or at least have in mind an achievable short-term goal.

This year, according to Static Brain, the top 10 New Year resolutions are as follows:

  • Lose weight
  • Get organized
  • Spend less, save more
  • Enjoy life to the fullest
  • Stay fit and healthy
  • Learn something exciting
  • Quit smoking
  • Help others in their dreams
  • Fall in love
  • Spend more time with family

Although more than half of us make these promises, it seems that less than 10% of people are actually successful. The top three reasons as to why we don’t keep our resolutions are: it’s not specific enough, setting too many goals and having a negative mindset.

It seems that most of us don’t achieve our goals because we expect too much with little (if any) action. In reality, you do really need to be in the right mindset if you are serious about changing something in your life – whether it’s overcoming an addiction like smoking or freeing up your time to spend it with loved ones. But if we did truly want to make these changes, why wait till January to do so?

Comedian Marcus Brigstocke broadcast a poem about how we simply use New Years as an excuse to put off our goals.

‘As New Year 2014 starts

We’ll all make pledges from our hearts…

But why? What purpose will it serve?

To promise then what we deserve.

We could (and this is just a thought)

Do now what then we think we ought?

Why wait until the New Year comes?’

Marcus Brigstocke BBC Radio 4

So, if there is a change that you think will make your life better, don’t put it off! By setting realistic goals and being consistent in your actions, you’ll be able to achieve them and not have to wait till New Years to put them in action!

My New Year's resolution is to stop lying to myself about making lifestyle changes.

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