Tips on How to Write a Professional Email in English
A good business email is more than just using the correct grammar and vocabulary (though those are vitally important!). You also need to learn the right content and sequencing. Here’s an overview of the content and sequencing you need to use in order to write a strong business email in English.
See our guide on writing business email here (for native speakers and advanced experience working in English)
Clear and Informative Subject Line
This is a key element, but it is often overlooked, especially when we are in a hurry. Your email subject should give your reader context before he or she even opens the email. Keep it short, but make sure it is specific enough that your reader will (1) open it and (2) know what the email is about. Here are some strong subject lines:
- Questions about the Costco Merger, reply needed
- Requesting a meeting re: the new hires
- ABC Project Status Needed by Tomorrow at Noon
While it may be tempting to be casual in emails, business emails still require a level of formality. It is not ok to open your email with “Hi!”, but “Hi John,” would be ok if the email is to a colleague with whom you are friendly. In more formal emails, “Dear John:” would be best. (Notice that "Dear First Name" closes with a colon. A more casual salutation of "Hi First Name," closes with a comma.)
Complete and Easy to Read Body Text
You need to include all of the information your reader needs to act. Make it easy for your reader by providing complete information, and keep the paragraphs short — seven lines of text in each paragraph is as long as an email paragraph should be. Shorter is better. Headings and lists help to make the information easier to absorb and help to ensure that you get the answer you need.
Strong, Action-Eliciting Conclusion
Make sure that your conclusion guides the reader to exactly what you need him or her to do. For example, “Send me a list of the accounts you expected to be impacted by this merger by Thursday, June 30th. We will discuss at the team meeting on Friday.”
Make sure your signature is appropriate for your audience and includes all of the information they need to contact you. A good example would be:
- Best regards, John Smith
- XYZ Company
- Phone Number
Sincerely could also be used in place of Best regards. Style Guides still approve of Sincerely as an appropriate close, but consider it a bit old fashioned.
Other Considerations When Writing Business Emails in English:
Make sure to analyze your audience before writing and consider whether the email should be more formal or more informal. Do some research about the customs and culture of your audience. You may need to be more or less deferential than in your own culture, for example. (More info about considering your audience here.)
Double check your grammar before hitting send! Grammarly is an excellent tool to help identify and fix grammar errors. You can also step away from your email for a few minutes or have a colleague look at it.
Check for idioms. These are sayings that only make sense within a particular culture. (You can find a list of English idioms here) Since these are meaningless outside of their culture and business is rapidly globalizing, they would be inappropriate for most business communications.
Writing strong Business Emails in English takes practice. Instructional Solutions offers an online English Business Writing Course that can help you write strong business emails.
About the author
Katie Almeida Spencer
Katie is an experienced Business Writing and English as a Second Language instructor, business writing coach, and teacher trainer. She taught Business and Academic Writing at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She holds a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Rhode Island and an M.A. in Applied Linguistics from the University of Massachusetts Boston.