Whether for personal matters or business, the ability to write efficient and effective e-mail is particularly important and useful - both in terms of productivity and responsiveness.
1. Parts of the email
E-mails like traditional letters have a specific structure. It is obvious that an e-mail is not a letter, thus it will never be as long nor as formal. E-mails are used for straightforward, fast communication. Still, if you want to be successful in writing e-mails, take the structure into consideration. Basically, adapt the style of your e-mail to the context situation.
Knowing the parts of an email can be very useful in English. You might have to tell someone your email address, or try to describe where you wrote a piece of information. In any case it’s best to start this course at the beginning with the most basic structures.
Here are the different parts of en e-mail:
The address- this is the line where you enter in the email address you wish to send the mail to. You usually have three options when sending an email:
The subject line- this is the line that appears to let people know what you will be talking about. This is very important since it gives the main information of your e-mail.
The opening- to open your email, usually an expression of greeting.
The body of text- the main part of the email.
The closing- to finish off the email.
The signature- your name.
2. Subject lines
Subject lines are very important. Too little information means that the receiver has no idea what the mail is about; if it is a person who receives a lot of emails per day, your mail may be pushed to the side. Too much information and the receiver won’t even open the mail.
Keep the subject lines, short and clear. Avoid the use of articles and prepositions, as well as “to infinitives”.
Language in use.
Subject lines differ from normal grammar rules. We tend not to use articles and it is common to see verbs in the infinitive or gerund tense and command forms. See below.
Meeting today(not The meeting today)
Travelling(the recipient understands where to and the gerund gives the idea that it is recent)
Travel (the recipient understands that it is travel in general)
Focus on the project (The command form gives this a warning tone)
Look at these examples. How could you change them to make the subject more appropriate?
I notice that the expense account is severely depleted. I need you to check over the receipts to see if there is any money missing. Please make this a priority.
Subject: The dirty coffee cups that someone left in the staffroom yesterday
Whoever it was that left all the dirty cups in the sink yesterday better go clean them. That room should be a place of rest, a break from all our busy schedules, not a pigsty!
Please just clean up after yourselves so we can all get on with our jobs,
Suggest possible subject lines for these emails:
I note that we have not yet received your payment for order number 34210. Please pay promptly or we will have to resort to further action.
Thank you in advance
Raquel Chrinside – Accounting.
Good evening staff,
I would like to propose a staff meeting for the 23rd of April, next Friday. I hope that you will all be able to attend and will bring with you your own thoughts and ideas regarding the firms decision to split into two factions. One based here in Avenue Diagonal and the other in the Forum.
Refreshments will be provided.
3. Auto signatures
An auto signature appears at the bottom of your mail. You can make one up within your chosen email programme. Creating an auto signature is very important, as it makes your emails seem more business like.
Here are some examples:
Now write your own:
Occupation / Job Title:
Tel / E-mail:
4. Openings and Closings
There are no standard formulas for starting or finishing e-mails. Only one thing is clear. Emails are invariably of an informal nature, so informal language tends to be the norm.
- Opening emails: Hi, Marc, Hello Marc, Dear Marc
In more business correspondence, it is more common to find: Mr. Marc, Dear Mr. Smith, Dear Sir or Madam.
Note that using the given name alone, as above, is reminiscent of business memos among colleagues within the same organization.
One can also receive emails with a wide variety of other opening formulas.
- Ending emails:Best wishes, Regards, Best regards, Good wishes.
These seem to represent the informal norm, followed by the given name (Melanie/Mel/etc) of the sender.
Occasionally, Yours sincerely is combined with Best wishes or stands alone before the given name of the sender, as in a semi-formal letter.
- Sometimes, a pre-closing formula is used instead of or in addition to the standard closure:
Let me know if you need more information,
Look forward to hearing from you.
Some other examples are:
If you require any further information, feel free to contact me.
Should you need any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
I look forward to your reply.
I look forward to hearing from you.
I look forward to seeing you.
We look forward to a successful working relationship in the future.
Once again, I apologize for any inconvenience.
We hope that we may continue to rely on your valued custom.
I would appreciate your immediate attention to this matter.
Even if emails do not need to follow a very strict formula, it is recommended to follow this pattern:
Dear Sir or Madam Yours Faithfully
Dear Mrs Briand Yours Sincerely
Dear Paul Best wishes, Best regards
Match the email beginnings with the endings:
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