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

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1 Comment

  1. Rachel Buillet

     /  January 27, 2014

    This is very good. 🙂 Do you have a French version?

    Reply

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