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Writing a business email in English - the do's and don'ts for content

Updated: Nov 1, 2023

You've decided on the subject, and you've addressed the recipient with an appropriate greeting. Now you need to write what you want to say.

Top tip:

Read, read and read again.

This is so important. Spell check is a great tool, but it won't tell you if you've used a word in the wrong context. Look at the following example:

"We only have one change to get this write."

All the words are spelled correctly, but the sentence is not correct. It should say:

"We only have one chance to get this right."

Reading your emails through a couple of times should help to avoid this kind of error.

  • When writing it is important to use a clear and logical structure, not just for your reader but also for yourself. It helps to set your ideas or arguments out in a way that will avoid confusion.

  • Use the first paragraph to clearly explain why are writing. Some examples include:

"I am writing to enquire whether you have the possibility to..."

"I am writing to let you know about..."

"I am writing in reply to your email below..."

"I am writing in response to your enquiry about..."

  • Use clear paragraphs to structure the rest of your content.

New idea = new paragraph

Put the key point or idea in the first line of the paragraph, provide further details and then summarise at the end of the paragraph if needed. Start the next paragraph with the next new idea.

  • Use bullet points or clear paragraph headings if the reader needs to make a choice between different options. This makes the options as clear as possible and avoids any confusion.

  • Don't use humour, even if you know the recipient well. Our ability to derive humour from a written phrase depends entirely on the mood we are in when we read it. It is important not to put off a client or offend a colleague by seeming inappropriate.

  • Don't use abbreviations or text speak. If you want to use an acronym for something, make sure to detail it somewhere at the start of the email before you continue to use it. For example, you might want to talk about the Home Shopping Network. This is a lot to type out each time, so the first time you write Home Shopping Network add (HSN) afterwards. From then on you only have to write HSN.

  • Don't try to use sentences that are overly complicated. The clearer and easier an email is to read, the better.

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