Business Writing: 7 Things You Need To Remember Before You Write Your Next Business Email in English

by | Apr 12, 2018 | 0 comments

Nowadays, companies use ‘online workspaces’ such as Slack to communicate with colleagues or co-workers on a project. That helps keep all communication in one easily accessible thread. No need to spend hours scrolling through hundreds of emails looking for that email with the important attachment your boss sent you three weeks ago.


However, despite the different methods of e-communication we have today – like What’s App, Slack and  social media platforms – email is still the preferred choice of business communication.


Take email marketing, for example. It’s a fundamental strategy that small online businesses need to adopt if they want to grow and market their services or products. It’s through the power of email that they nurture and grow their email list of subscribers to become loyal followers and customers.


Email is still the place where you will write to a new important client with a sales proposal, for example.


When sending your CV, you will attach it to an email introducing yourself.


You’re more likely to send an email than a written letter to your mobile phone provider requesting information or making a complaint. It’s quicker to send and with a bit of luck, you’ll receive a swift response.


You can be less formal when writing business emails, but not too informal. Most of us want to make a good impression with our writing and for that we need to take that extra bit of care when writing.


What you need is a checklist to ensure your email is up to standard.

(For a more in depth guide on how to write effectively in business, check this post.)


Here is a checklist of 7 items you need to remember before sending your email.


#1. Subject Line


Always have a subject line that summarises briefly and clearly the contents of your email message.


For example:

Re: Summary of Our Meeting with ABC Suppliers

RE: Your enquiry about your account

RE: We’re sorry but your magazine may be delayed.


Why is this important?

If you want your reader to open your email and take action, you need to capture their attention. In the sea of emails we all receive, it’s super hard to catch people’s attention.

That’s why you need to make your subject line clear, relevant and to the point.


#2. Short and Simple Sentences


Use short and easy sentences. Long sentences can often be difficult to read and understand.

The most common mistake that I see clients making is to translate directly from their own language.


This can often lead to confusing sentences. I always tell my clients to use the KISS Test – Keep It Short and Simple.

Why is this important?


Your reader will NOT spend more than a few minutes reading your email. Our attention span doesn’t extend to more than a few minutes. It’s the way we’re wired now. The advent of social media platforms like Twitter has changed the way we absorb information.


We’re not used to reading long texts. If you want to grab your reader’s attention, you want to keep your sentences short and uncomplicated.

Good spacing is also very important. Don’t cram all your writing in one paragraph. Make it visually attractive and easy to read for your reader.



#3. Think of who your reader is going to be.


Is it a colleague, a client or your boss?


Should the email be informal or formal? Most business emails these days have a neutral tone. Note the difference between informal and formal:


Informal – Thanks for the email of 15 February

Formal – Thank you for your email received 15 February


Informal – Sorry, I can’t make it.

Formal – I am afraid I will not be able to attend


Informal – Could you…?

Formal – I was wondering if you could….?


Why is this important?


Some emails to colleagues can be informal if they are friends. This is the style that is closest to speech, so there are often everyday words and conversational expressions that can be used.


For instance, ‘Don’t forget’, ‘Catch you later’, ‘Cheers’.


The reader will also accept bad grammar in informal emails. However, if the email is going to a client or senior colleague, bad grammar and an over-friendly style will NOT be acceptable.



#4. Be very careful of capital letters, punctuation, spelling and basic grammar.


While wrong use of capitals and bad spelling can be tolerated in informal emails, they are NOT in business emails to clients and superiors.


Give yourself time to edit what you’ve written before you push that send button.


In today’s busy world, it’s very easy to send out many emails without checking them so make a conscious effort to edit.


I recommend using Grammarly’s Grammar Checker.


It makes the editing process less painful and less time-consuming. It will also give you the peace of mind that your email is correct.

Affiliate Disclaimer: The above link to Grammarly is an affiliate link. If you click on it and sign up for the Grammar Checker, I receive a small fee. This pays for my espresso which I need to get my creative juices flowing! Clicking on the link is free. I only support services that I’ve tested out myself.


Why is this important?


It shows your attention to detail is excellent and creates the right professional image of yourself.



#5. Think about how direct or indirect you want to be


Consider these:


Direct – ‘I need this in half an hour’.

Indirect – ‘Could I have this in half an hour?’


Direct – ‘There will be a delay’.

Indirect – ‘I’m afraid there will be a slight delay’.


Direct – ‘It’s a bad idea’

Indirect – ‘To be honest, I’m not sure it would be a good idea’.


Why is this important?


In some cultures it is common practice to be very direct in email correspondence. However, this can cause a problem if you’re writing to someone in another country and in a language that is not yours. They might find your directness rude and sometimes offensive.

By adjusting your tone, you are more likely to get a more positive response from your reader.


#6. Be positive!


Look at these words:

helpful, good question, agreed, together, useful, I’d be delighted, mutual, opportunity.


Now look at these:

busy, crisis, failure, forget it, I can’t, it’s impossible, waste, hard


Why is this important?


The words you use show your attitude to life so choose your words wisely.


#7. Get Feedback and Observe


Try and get some feedback on the emails that you write in real life. This could be from your English teacher or someone you know whose English is better than yours.


Study the English in the emails you receive. If it is a well-written email, look carefully at some of the language used.


Start your own phrase book and build a bank of phrases from the ones you receive and think would be useful in the future.


Why is this important?


It’s only by observing and mimicking good writing, you’ll improve.

Getting constructive feedback will hold you accountable and encourage you to keep going.



Effective writing is a skill and like all skills, it needs to be practised regularly.


Print this checklist off and keep it by your keyboard.

And if you need some more writing tips,  check out my e-book and audiobook, Business English Secrets.



Happy writing.



Ciao for now



PS: If you found this post helpful and feel that your friends and colleagues would benefit, please share it with them.



Email English by Paul Emmerson, Macmillan Publishers