In emails we use less formal language than we use in business letters. We know that we are busy, and we are fairly certain the business people we are writing to are busy too. So we keep our language clear, simple, direct. In emails it is fine to use contractions (I’m for I am, etc.) and we use more personal language.
When we are emailing friends our language is even more informal. We write in a way that is close to how we would talk to them.
Here is a list of different ways that you can say things in emails, both formal and neutral/formal (adapted from Email English by Paul Emmerson).
|What do you need?||Please let us know your requirements.|
|Thanks for the email of 12 Feb.||Thank you for your email received 12 February.|
|Sorry, I can't make it.||I am afraid I will not be able to attend.|
|I'm sorry to tell you that ...||We regret to advise you that ...|
|I promise ...||I can assure you that ...|
|Could you ...?||I was wondering if you could ...|
|You haven't ...||We note from our records that you have not ....|
|Don't forget ...||We would like to remind you that ...|
|I need to ...||It is necessary for me to ...|
|Shall I ...?||Would you like me to ...?|
|But.../Also.../So...||However .../In addition .../Therefore ...|
|Please could you ...||I would be grateful if you could ...|
|I'm sorry for ...||Please accept our apologies for ...|
|Re ...||With regard to ... (With reference to ...)|
|See you next week.||I look forward to meeting you next week.|
Now you have some words to use; but what about how to structure the email? I was at a conference yesterday where one of the speakers, Rachel Appleby, recited a poem that she uses to help people:
What to do,
I love you.
Now of course we don’t write ‘I love you’ in our business emails, but this serves to remind us to include a warm closing greeting, such as ‘Kind regards’.
So we might write to a colleague (informal style):
Thanks for the email you sent me yesterday about the missing stock. (Something old.) I’ve looked into it and am happy to tell you that we’ve found it and will forward it to you. You should get it tomorrow. (Something new.)
Please let me know if it doesn’t arrive. (What to do.)
Sorry about the hassle.
Kind regards, (I love you)
If we’re writing to a customer it might be:
Dear Ms Johnson,
Thank you for your email of 14 March about your order not having arrived. (Old.) We have checked our records and have discovered that, unfortunately, it missed the cut-off for that day’s delivery. We immediately dispatched the package and it should arrive by tomorrow. (New.)
Please contact me if it does not arrive (What to do.) and I will arrange for a replacement to be sent to you by courier.
I apologise for the inconvenience.
Best regards, (I love you.)
Delivery Executive, XYZ Company.
Ph: 555 237 8054