Tips for the best business English in your emails

Note: Your web content will also benefit from these tips

1 Subject line – Create a strong subject line. This is like a headline in a newspaper or on a website and encourages the reader to open the email. The text within the email must match what you have put in the subject line.

2 Setting – Set width to 65-70 characters, or 12-14 words. Use a classic font
Use a type size which is easy to read (11pt or 12pt).
Make sure the HTML option is on so you can use bold or colour, occasionally for emphasis.
Avoid CAPITAL letters in emails are as they are considered rude  (like shouting).

3 Recipient – Personalize and use their name. Don’t be over familiar.
Make sure you have used the right name (my name is Nick Keith, and I receive so many emails addressed to ‘Dear Keith’ or ‘Hi Keith’. That is annoying).

4 Intro / summary– Some emails have a short introduction to summarize the topic. No more than a sentence.

5 Tone 

  • Think first of your reader. Are they young or older? Male or female?
    Would you use the same tone if you were meeting them face-to-face?
  • Be businesslike and polite rather than chatty. 
  • Write appropriately. Is it appropriate to start an email to a senior staff member, or an older person with ‘Hi’? 
  • Simple, clear English is best. Don’t use long words to impress.
  • Be consistent in tenses, and your style use of English (-ise, or –ize)
  • ALWAYS keep the reader in mind.

6 Use bullet points  – Break up the text and add emphasis with a list of bullet points.

7 Sideheads –  these are also called cross-heads or sub-headings and provide clarity and direction, like a heading. Keep sideheads to 2 or 3 words and put the text which follows on a new line, but without a space.

8 Sentences – Keep the first sentence short and to the point. All sentences should be a maximum of 20 words.

9 Paragraphs – Use 2 sentences only and add a line break between paras.

10 Length – Keep the email short, ideally one page.

11 Close – Sign off with a call to action or a statement of intent.
E.G. ‘I will call you tomorrow to discuss this further’ (or on a specific day in the very near future). ‘I look forward to your early response to my quote /proposal. Please call me if you need more information.’

12 Your signature – Use a signature (sig file) including your contact details.

13 Power of a  P.S.  –The P.S ((post script) will catch the attention just as much as the subject headline.

14 Proofread – If emails are important, print them out and proofread them. Get a colleague to read the email too.

15 Summary 

  • Read every email at least once. 
  • Never send an email immediately after composing and proofreading. 
  • Make sure you write exactly what you mean to say. Can your words be misunderstood? 
  • Use the right tone. It is very easy to cause (unwitting) offence in an email by using the wrong tone or inappropriate language. We tend to be more careless in sending emails than in posting letters.
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