Writing Professional Emails
Even with the increased use of chat messaging services like Slack and MS Teams, email remains the key form of communication in the workplace, with the average office worker sending 40 emails a day. So what do you need to consider when writing emails at work?
When you send a formal email it is important to start with an appropriate greeting. If you are writing to someone you don’t know for the first time it’s a good idea to start with “Dear” and the Title and surname of the recipient. For example: Dear Mr. Smith or Dear Dr. Khan. After some correspondence with the person and after you have established a relationship, it may now be appropriate to use first names and greetings like “Hi” in further correspondence. If you don’t know the name of the person you are writing to you can use “ To whom it may concern”. If you are unsure about how formal or informal to be, it’s better to be formal rather than running the risk of sounding unprofessional.
Make sure that you include a short and relevant subject in the subject line of the email. If you are applying for a job or to a school, the advert may indicate what the subject of the email should be. Remember to be specific as this gives the recipient a clearer idea of what your email is about. For example it’s better to say “ Job Application- Senior Analyst” rather than just “ Job Application.” You should also state your purpose at the beginning of the email, you can start with “ I am writing to apply” or “I am writing to enquire about.”
The tone of your email is incredibly important. Business emails are formal in tone and language. There are however grades of formal language. In highly formal emails, for example job applications you shouldn’t use contractions like “I’m”, it’s better to use “I am”. However, in the normal course of business it is appropriate to use contractions. Formal language makes your message more polite but be careful of being over polite as you may not convey your intended meaning.
In formal correspondence keep your messages as short as possible. Of course, you need to write formally and include all the relevant information, but make sure there is a clear reason for every sentence you write. It is better to write short simple sentences. Writing concisely is a skill that people often overlook. When you write long sentences with lots of clauses you may end up confusing yourself and your reader, and that’s the last thing you want to do! In the culture of most English speaking countries, business emails are purely business and there is no need to inquire about personal lives of the recipient. If you really want to include a personal touch, “ I hope this email finds you well” is sufficient.
Luckily when writing emails there are set phases that you can use to convey what you are asking for or stating. This means that you won’t have to think too hard about some parts of the language. Below is a list of commonly used phrases with its meaning and an example:
|I am writing to enquire about…||Asking for information||I’m writing to enquire about the job advertised on your website.|
|I am writing in reference to…||I’m writing about||I’m writing in reference to your email.|
|I would be very grateful if you could…|
Could you (possibly)…?
Would you mind sending me…?
I was wondering if you could
|Making a request||I would be very grateful if you could send me the report.|
Could you forward me the details.
Would you mind sending me the 2019 budget report
I was wondering if you could reschedule the meeting.
|(First of all) I would like to apologise for…|
Please accept our (sincerest) apologies for the inconvenience caused
|Apologising||I would like to apologise for the misunderstanding.|
Please accept our sincerest apologies for the delay in delivery and any inconvenience
|We regret to inform you that…|
We are sorry to announce that…
|Giving bad news||We regret to inform you that your application has been unsuccessful.|
We are sorry to announce that the conference has been cancelled.
|I/ We would like to inform you that…||Making an announcement||I would like to inform you of price changes in the new catalogue.|
|I attach||Attaching documents||I attach an update CV and photograph.|
When closing emails you can express thanks with phrases like “ Thank you for your cooperation/ consideration” or “ I look forward to hearing from you”. Lastly you can sign off with “ Best regards” “Best wishes” or simply “ Thank you.”
Finally remember to read your email a few times before sending. Check for tone, grammar, spelling and that you have included all the relevant information and attachments.
By Il-Haam Ahmed
Check out Five Tips for Effective Meetings.