Emails are often fairly informal or neutral in tone, but there are still rules to follow, and a certain degree of good manners is expected between people who do not know each other well.
If you are communicating with someone for the first time, the language you use in your email should be fairly formal. Even if you are writing to someone with whom you have already established a relationship, a formal style might be appropriate.
Examples of cases where a more formal style might be preferred are:
- If the person is much older than you
- If the person has a higher rank than you in your company
- If the person is from a country or culture where relations between people of different ages or different ranks in a company are more formal than in your own.
Once you have built a relationship, and you feel that it is appropriate, you can use a more informal style. It is also useful to pay attention to the style of the emails you receive from people. If a contact uses an informal style, then you can do the same in your reply. Emails to colleagues and people you know tend to be less formal, but should still be polite. If you are unsure about which style to use, keep it more formal.
It is important to keep emails clear, concise, and polite. You can do this by following the suggestions below.
- Remember that busy people receive a lot of correspondence. For this reason, you should avoid sending long emails. Try to tell them your points quickly and clearly.
- Ensure that the first sentence introduces the topic of the email clearly, and in a few words.
- Write short paragraphs. This will make the information easier to understand. Leave a space between each paragraph.
- If the email is long, consider numbering your points, using bullet points, or using headings. The reader will find this useful when responding to particular points.
- Write your emails carefully. Emails that are written very quickly and carelessly can seem unfriendly and rude.
- Contractions (I'm, he's, can't, we'd, etc) are acceptable in emails.
The subject line
The subject line should clearly show the main point of your email. For example, if you are emailing a company to ask for information about a product, use the subject line to give the name of the product, and to mention the fact that you need information:
Subject: Balance bike (ref: N765) information required
Here are some more examples of subject lines:
Subject: Meeting Room changed to 307
Subject: Lunch (Fri 9 Oct) cancelled
Subject: Feb sales figures
Subject: Reminder: conference agenda due
Salutations (= words or phrases for saying hello)
Formal emails are similar to formal letters, and the same salutations can be used.
If you decide to use the more formal salutation `Dear Mr Sanchez' or `Dear Ms Sanchez', remember to make sure that you use the title, e.g. Mr, Miss, Mrs, Ms, Dr, etc with surnames, not first names.
Dear Mr Sanchez
Dear Mrs O'Neill
Dear Miss Lee
Dear Dr Armstrong
In less formal emails, you can be more familiar. If the sender of the message has used his or her first name only, it is acceptable to use their first name when you reply. When you are communicating regularly with colleagues or business contacts, you can start with `Hello' or `Hi'.
Ending an email
There is often a short sentence that links the main part of the email and the sign-off (= the part that says goodbye). What you write will, of course, depend on the purpose of your email, but here are a few typical sentences that are often used:
I hope to hear from you soon.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Thanks again for this.
Many thanks in advance.
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.
I hope this helps.
Please get in touch if you have any more queries.
Let me know what you think.
It is polite to finish an email with a sign-off. There are no fixed rules for the type of sign-off that you use. The phrases below are some of the most common ones.
With best wishes
An attachment is a file that you send with your email. You can refer to attachments by using these expressions.
Please find attached...
I am attaching...
I'm sending you a copy of...
Dealing with technical problems
Occasionally, emails or attachments do not reach the person they were intended for. Here are some expressions you can use to check whether someone has received an email or to ask someone to send an attachment again.
Did you get my last email, sent on É?
I'm afraid I can't open the attachment.
The attachment doesn't seem to have come through. Could you possibly re-send it?
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