There has always been considerable debate as to how to properly write an e-mail, particularly a business one. In this free Business English resource from Unique Languages, one of our Business English tutors, Katharine Smith, offers her take on this vital subject area.
The most important point to remember when composing a business e-mail is that it is not a letter, and therefore is far less formal. It is unusual to find somebody starting an e-mail with "Dear (Name)", for example and I usually find that a simple "Hello" is the best way to start.
There is some debate as to whether we should include the traditional opening sentences in letters any more. For some, "Further to your letter of (Date)" is old-fashioned and there is no longer any need for this any more. I shall leave that debate for a later lesson, but would say that for e-mail it is no longer necessary as usually you will be able to see past e-mails simply by scrolling down the screen.
Another crucial difference between letter and e-mail is the style of language. Whereas a letter should be written out in a very formal style ("He is here", "She would like to visit London"), an e-mail should adopt more of a spoken tone and so contractions are the norm ("He's here", "She'd like to visit London", etc.)
There are a few other points to note: Be careful of your subject heading. Often, I have received e-mails that will refer to an old subject that has already passed. Bear in mind that the recipient or sender might need to look back at archived e-mails and it helps considerably if the subject heading is correct. It only takes a few seconds to change it.
So, in summary:
E-mails should be far less formal than letters
By all means use a conversational style, but be aware of who you are writing to!!!
Be aware of your subject heading
Do you have any tips for writing good e-mails? Let us know here at Unique Language Training.
Unique runs Business English training courses for businesses and motivated individual students. To find out more, contact us on 020 3566 0145, e-mail us or fill in the form on this screen.
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