Every day, an astonishing 205 billion emails are sent and received worldwide. While a huge amount of these are informal messages between friends, the majority is for business purposes. Whether you’re emailing someone you work with, applying for a new job or making new connections, here are some general rules to follow when writing English emails…
1. Know your tone
Always consider who you are writing to and adapt your language accordingly. Emails are less formal than letters, so it’s fine to start your email with “Hi” or “Good morning” – but it may be better to write “Dear…” if you are emailing someone for the first time or if they are senior to you. Similarly, ending emails with “Best/kind regards” rather than “Yours sincerely/faithfully” works well, with the latter being more appropriate for a formal email. Whatever the relationship, though, don’t feel tempted to use laid-back, colloquial expressions like “Hey you guys”, “Yo!”, or “Hi folks”.
2. It’s all about the titles
It’s increasingly common to use first names in international business communications, so don’t be afraid to do so. Another title to consider is your email subject header: a short, clear text is important as busy people often decide whether to even open an email depending on the subject header. Examples of a good subject header include “Meeting date changed”, “Quick question about your presentation”, or “Suggestions for the proposal”.
3. Use a professional email address
If you work for a company you’ll be using your company email address. But if you’re using a personal email account because you’re self-employed or looking for a new job, you should be careful when choosing that address.
You should always have an email address that includes your name so that the recipient knows exactly who is sending the email. Email addresses that you created while you were in school or college (IloveJohn@… or “Beerlover@…) are not appropriate for the workplace!
4. Limit the small talk
Small talk can help to build relationships but it doesn’t need to be overly personal. A simple “I hope you are well” or “How are things?” will usually suffice. Also, be cautious with humour as it can easily get lost in translation without the correct tone or facial expressions that accompany face-to-face meetings. It’s safer to leave out humour from emails unless you know the recipient well.
5. Keep it simple
Emails are intended to be written, read and understood quickly, so only include the important details – and avoid saturating your message with unnecessary information.
6. Proofread every message
Always check your emails before pressing Send. Read and re-read your email a few times, preferably aloud, to ensure there are no spelling or grammatical mistakes. And never rely on the auto spell-check!
This post is also available in: Korean