7 Steps to Writing Perfect Business Emails

January 6, 2017
6 January 2017,
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Our Advanced Business English Course teaches students to communicate in English naturally without memorization. We mainly focus on Spoken English but today we want to focus on something different – Writing business emails.

Crafting the perfect business email is both an art and the science. You have to use the right tone. That said, most emails sent to a business acquaintance, client, or colleague needs to be more formally composed than an email you might send to a friend, or your mother. Fortunately, it’s easy to break down the perfect business email into its component parts. As long as you complete each of them, your email should achieve its goal and impress the recipient. Here’s how to create it:

Step 1: A clear subject line

The first thing your recipient sees before they even open your email is the subject line. This is meant to provide an idea of what they will find in the email and help them find it again later when they want to refer back to it. So don’t just type in “hi” or “the project,” but rather something specific and clear that identifies either the type of content in the email (such as “information about X”) or what you hope they will provide you (“your assistance needed with X”).

Step 2: An appropriate salutation

If you’re emailing a co-worker you speak to frequently and are on casual terms with, a salutation may not even be needed, or you could simply begin with “Hi” or their name. But if the recipient is a person of a higher rank, or a client or colleague you don’t know well, then addressing them more formally, at least in the first email you send them, is a good idea. “Good morning Mr. X” or “Hello Ms. X” are concise and polite.

When you receive their reply, take note of how they have signed themselves. If they use a formal signature with their full name, continue as you began. If they sign themselves with their first name only, this signifies that you may use that form of address going forward.

Step 3: A succinct introduction

If you don’t know the person, or if they would not immediately know why you are emailing them, it’s important to provide some information about yourself. State your name, your position within your organization, and how you came to be in touch with them (for example, you were given their name by your boss or a colleague, or you met at an event). This allows the recipient to picture who they are speaking to and puts the rest of your email in perspective.

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Step 4: Brief background                                                                                                    

Before you get to the main purpose of your email, it’s wise to provide a little bit of background. Whether you’re emailing to share information with them or you want or need something from them, write a one-sentence overview of the project, product, or situation that your information or request pertains to.

This places your email in context for the recipient and refreshes their memory of the situation. It also softens the “ask” part of the email and can help explain why they are the best person to help you with your needs.

Step 5: A call to action

This is the meat of the email, the most important section of all. If you want or need something from the recipient, such as information, assistance, or feedback, this is when you ask — nicely, of course. Make sure you say please, or use other polite phrasings like “if you could be so kind” or “I would appreciate it if you can.” But don’t get too flowery, and don’t try to be subtle. State your question or request clearly, briefly, and pleasantly.

If you simply want to offer the recipient information, such as an update on a project or situation, this is where you put it.

Step 6: An expression of appreciation

It’s polite and well-mannered to thank the recipient for their time and efforts if you want them to do something for you. A simple “I appreciate your attention to this matter” or “Thanks so much for taking this on” shows the reader that you recognize their time and skills have value.

If you’ve simply provided them with information in your email, be sure to let them know that they are welcome to contact you if they have any questions or concerns about that information. Make sure you tell them if you prefer to be contacted by return email or if a phone call would be better.

Step 7: A polite signature

Signing your name may be redundant if it already appears in your electronic signature block, which is automatically appended to each email you send. So it’s better in most cases to end with a polite sign-off phrase such as “Best regards,” “Sincerely,” or “With thanks.”

If you follow all of these steps, your business emails should achieve their goals and be well-received. Learn more about our unique Advanced Business English Course and sign up for a trial lesson below. Our teachers can help talk you through the process if you think you need help. Happy emailing!

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