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7 Top Tips – Send good English e-mails at work

Today, it is so important to be able to send good English e-mails which have been written with some thought when you are at work.

Why? When using your phone to access your e-mail, you might find yourself caught up in a moment at work. You are in a meeting or at lunch and without thinking you click “reply,” type up a quick response and send.

Then all sorts of things happen and you end up in a chain of 5 people on cc and wondering what is happening! This is why we offer these 10 tips to help you send good English e-mails at work.

1. Should it be handled in-person

As you move up from being a Team Leader to Manager or working with budgets, there are always stories in a company which are shared by the Nespresso coffee machine about “did you hear about?” 

These topics sometimes stray into the “for your information” or f.y.i. space of e-mail. Ask yourself is the e-mail a public one to be shared, or stored and addressed at a review or private conversation moment with the person who is the subject or sender.

The topic being discussed is something you’d write on company letterhead or post on a bulletin board for all to see before clicking “send.” –Judith Kallos,
author of “E-Mail Etiquette Made Easy”, “E-Mail: The Manual”, and “E-Mail: A Write It Well Guide”.

2. Don’t have red mist or get “e-mail angry” with anyone

Let us ignore the current Twitter star of rants, e-mailing with bad news, making a decision to cut a supplier, to stop working for an employer despite the fact you will be paid your notice period and more may seem a good idea at the time. 

E-mail is dangerous because one moment the exchange is informal. Next, it is used as evidence to resolve conflict or to impact a project resource budget request. 

A small side comment has caught many a person because you must remember that e-mail correspondence lasts for a long time. 

Legally, companies are required to retain information in some circumstances for 7 to 10 years!

3. E-mails are not messaging

Companies are using more and more messaging platforms, this short answer or SMS style is now applied by many to e-mail. 

The problem, a 1 or 6-word response may not actually advance the conversation or requested decision very far. In informational situations, add “Information only” or “No Reply Necessary” at the top of the e-mail or in the subject line, if low priority or if you do not want a response. 

When you send a short e-mail in English with “thanks” or “will do” as a message, when there may be more than one person involved who may not be as proficient as you in your use of English, confusion can arise.

4. Always include a signature if it is important

The topic is urgent, the email has “sent by Samsung” or similar on it and there is no contact information. 

Why should someone have to look up how to get in touch with you? Have you not been frustrated as the receiver of an e-mail who had to check through past e-mails to find a contact number? 

This is why on important e-mails adding the best contact number to get you and a note of your time-zone if travelling will speed up the process.

5. Call or warn in advance when you need to send large attachments

There are other ways to send large volumes of data, not by e-mail. Many company e-mail inboxes have a capacity limit. 

It could be as low as 100Mb and if the person owning it keeps everything, your 10Mb report and graphic file, badly formatted CV or similar could bounce or simply not arrive for a long time. 

That is because a low priority has been set internally for large file management on the company e-mail servers. Tools for sending large files include Dropbox, filemail and others.

6. Manage those attachments

“I did not get the information” because the recipient did not see the extra documents which were hidden in the scroll down area if you are using Outlook. 

If you are sending attachments please try to give them a document or file name which is logical. When you send more than 3 files, state in the first line, “please find attached the xxx files / documents relating to .” 

This means that in the future, if you or they need to find the e-mail, it can be found with a simple sent/inbox general search of subject and content. This is especially important for HR or Finance where in the case of HR the resume, interview notes, references and other information may be shared.

7. Your e-mail is about you and people who receive them do judge, so consider using the phone instead

Every e-mail you send is looked at by others, a manager may think “oh dear” their English is getting worse, or we have a training need because it is not on topic, contains mistakes or a mix of German or French and English words. 

This is not your fault or the fault of a colleague, it is simply reflects the need of a skills or use of English language course. That is why we say sometimes instead of e-mailing someone, pick up the phone instead. 

There have been many students who have spoken with good use of English and clarity of thought on important topics who would not have been able to do the same in an e-mail.

We do have more e-mail tips to share on e-mails and other business English topics. If you are interested, please sign up for our newsletter or contact us for an e-mail writing and use of English in-company course.

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