Essay Writing and Grocery Shopping – What have they got in common?

How to improve your writing in English

For any essay with a given time and word limit, the preparation stage I believe is truly like writing a shopping list before you get to the supermarket, which saves you time, money and a lot of nerves. 

If you have always had essays assigned for homework without any word limits and with plenty of time to complete them, this doesn’t necessarily apply to you. 

You have days to work on it, rewrite it, ask for feedback and proofread it.  But in an exam situation, when you are under the pressure of time and word limits,

I’m afraid you don’t have this luxury. So how can you adapt to such conditions?

Photo by Mohammad Sanaei on Unsplash

Let us go back to the comparison to grocery shopping.

Certainly, if you had just 15 minutes to shop and only CHF 150.00 to buy all that you need to feed a family of four in a week, you just might think of sitting down to write a grocery list first before heading out the door. 

You would ask yourself, so what meals can I cook that are healthy but inexpensive enough to cover all our needs?

If you wrote a few meals down first and chose those which require items that fit within your budget, you would have much better chances of making your money stretch and avoid purchasing items that really may not serve your purpose.

You keep to the list and pass the ice cream and chocolate rows without any problems. 

You’re on a mission!

Think of preparing your essay in the same way.

  1. Concentrate on the essay question. 
  2. Write the ideas that come to mind.
  3. Choose what is most effective and eliminate the extras before you even begin.

Putting this in specific terms, if you have only 250 words to explain two sides of an argument, be sure you think of 2 solid arguments for both with convincing examples.

The hardest part of the essay writing planning job is done. 

What’s left? 

A carefully written introduction and conclusion that includes references to your ideas is all that’s left. 

Stay tuned for a future blog entry for this!  My mission for this blog entry is now complete.

Learn more about The Boston School and about how we can help you to learn brilliantly ( British English ) or in an awesome way ( American English). 

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English Out of Office Email Reply – Exercise & Examples

kostenloses Business Englisch

What you may want to learn

The Boston School helps French and German speaking employees of Swiss company offices and others online to improve their internal communications, using tools such as these good out of office email replies in English.

Learning English on holiday

It is important to remember just who will receive your out of office e-mail response and how will they react if it is poorly worded?

Listed below are some real examples of error messages and an explanation of why they are wrong. 

Common out of office email mistakes (all real examples)

Date Confusion

I will be out of the office starting 09/08/2019 and will not return until 23/08/2019.

In Europe and many other places in the world, 09/08/2019 means August 9th, 2019. In the US, the month comes before the day so would be understood as the 8th of September, possibly causing some confusion.

Mixing Language

Thank you for your message. Sorry I’m not in the Office until 20th of Mai and I have no access to my Emails.

In urgent cases please contact XXXX. (Phone +41 …. Email: xxxx)

Freundliche Grüsse

Kind regards


Use of Slang / Informal

*** BIZ trip until 12. Sept 2018 ***

*** please contact XX XXX ***

*** for urgent calls: +41 xx xxx xxx ***

The use of asterisks, biz instead of business project an informal relationship which may not be in line with your corporate standards. 

Acceptable out of office email examples include:

Example 1 – Simple out of office email

Thank you for your e-mail.

I am out of the office till Thursday, 27th of April 2017 and your email will not be forwarded.

Should the matter be important, please contact XXXX XXX ( first name second name and their email address) in my absence.

Best regards

Your  Name


Example 2 (refer to a colleague whilst you are away)

Dear Mail Sender,

Thank you for your mail. I will be out of office from today and will be back on Thursday, May 27th. I will have limited access to my e-mail during this period.

In my absence, please feel free to contact XX XX on +41 44 310 3038 or e-mail

Thank you for your understanding.

Best regards,

Your  Name


Example 3 Date and colleague reference out of office email 

I will be out of the office till October 24th 2018. I will respond to your e-mail as soon as possible on my return.

Please note, that your mail will not be forwarded. For any urgent matters, please contact XX XX at

Thank you for your understanding.

Best regards,

Your  Name


Example 4 (voted most popular !)

Thank you for your email. I am out of the office from [DAY, DATE] to [DAY, DATE] and unable to respond at this time.

I will review your message following my return on [DAY, DATE]. If you need immediate assistance, contact [Name, phone number and email address].

Thank you for your understanding.

Best regards,

Your  Name


Out of office email best practice

German - French - English out of office email example

It is important to recognise your company standards and practices when creating an out of office email reply. Too often it is the last thing we do before we leave for our holidays, so mistakes are common.

It is important to provide a point of reference, a colleague as an alternative contact and that they know you have elected them to cover for you whilst you are away.

Swiss Style Out of Office Email Example From 2019

Guten Tag,

Vielen Dank für Ihre E-Mail. Bin abwesend bis 13.08.2019 und kann Ihre E-Mail nicht beantworten. Ihre E-Mail wird jedoch weitergeleitet und bearbeitet.


Je vous remercie pour votre e-mail. Je suis absent jusqu’ au 13.08.2019, et ne peux pas répondre à votre e-mail. Par contre, votre courriel est transmis et traité.


Thank you for your e-mail. I am out of office until 13.08.2019 and can’ t answer your e-mail. Your email will be forwarded and processed.

Mit freundlichen Grüssen

Meilleures salutations,

kind regards,

Urs wrote his in 3 languages and normally in Switzerland it is two:
German/English or French/English
for an out of office holiday or business email reply

Top Tip for out of office email replies

Da heutzutage praktisch jedes Unternehmen auch andere Formen der Information anbietet, also z. B. Facebook, eine Homepage, Instagram, Twitter etc., kann es unter Umständen sinnvoll sein, auch auf diese zu verweisen:

Für Informationen über unser aktuelles Produktangebot können Sie auch auf unserer Website www.a b vorbeischauen.

For information on our latest product range, you can also check our website www.a b c / .

This helps you to promote your new sales range even when you may be off work on the beach! 

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Simple English and German out of office email example

This is a simple reference example to help students to complete an exercise and to bookmark the page for their future holidays. 

Checkliste: Was gehört in die Abwesenheits-E-Mail-Antwort?

Betreff: Wählen Sie ein kurzes und informatives Thema, damit der Empfänger sofort sieht, worum es geht.

Ich danke dir: In jeder E-Mail sollte ein Gruß enthalten sein, und Sie sollten keinen ohne Dankeschön machen.

Punkt: Von wann sind Sie im Urlaub oder geschäftlich unterwegs und bis wann sind Sie nicht erreichbar?

Abwesenheit: Was passiert mit den Mails in deiner Abwesenheit?

Repräsentation: Wer vertritt Sie während Ihrer Abwesenheit oder Urlaubszeit? Wie kann man ihn erreichen?

Zurückkehren: Was passiert mit der Post nach Ihrer Rückkehr?

Vorlage Abwesenheitsnotiz Deutsch

Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren,

bis zum TT.MM.JJ befinde ich mich im Urlaub.

Meine E-Mails werden in dieser Zeit nicht weitergeleitet oder bearbeitet. In dringenden Fällen wenden Sie sich bitte an [vertretende/r Mitarbeiter/in] unter der Durchwahl XY,

Vielen Dank für Ihr Verständnis!

Schöne Grüße

Vorlage Abwesenheitsnotiz Englisch

Dear Sir or Madam,

Thank you for your message.

I am currently out of the office and will be back on the ( Datum) ,,, 14 February 2020.

Your email will not be forwarded. I will answer it upon my return.

For urgent matters please contact  …vertretende/r Mitarbeiter/in …  (#### @??; Tel: 044 – XXX XX XX).

Thank you for your understanding.

Best regards,



Need to keep updated or just passing by?


Use of English – “sleep in” versus to “oversleep”

free 3 minute English lesson

Use of English Q&A Email – For those of us who like to sleep-in!

Hi everyone,

A German-speaking student e-mailed me this tricky question about the difference between when we use to “sleep in” versus to “oversleep”.  Here’s how I responded:

Question: Which is correct?

If I don’t wake up on time (verschlafen), do I sleep in or oversleep?

Answer:  I like your question.  There definitely is a difference in attitude when I sleep in or oversleep.  My husband mistakes my sleeping in for oversleeping all the time on Saturdays!   He’s a real early bird. Here’s what I mean….

When we want to wake up at a specific time, especially for work, and don’t – then we would use the term to oversleep.  For example: “My alarm clock didn’t go off and I overslept.  Sorry I’m late.”

When we purposely want to sleep for a long time in the morning, for example, on Saturdays of Sundays, then we say:  “No alarm clocks tomorrow for me – let’s just sleep in.” (American English)  OR ” Let’s have a lie in tomorrow.”  (British English)

Maybe the visual below might help you remember the meaning of “oversleep”, taken from:


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Winning a New Client – Your First Step

Business English Skills 5 minute read

First Contact with a Potential Client: Sample E-Mail

Finding new clients is not easy.  The first step can be either a phone call, a visit to a booth at a trade show or writing a introductory e-mail.

Keep it simple and to the point by including these 5 key parts shown below.  Of course, there are many phrases and ways to cover these points.  We have included 10 standard phrases that you may find helpful to keep a neutral, friendly but professional tone.  

5 Parts of Introductory Sales E-Mail/Letter:

Here are 5 parts that I recommend including in an introductory e-mail to a potential client.  For each part, I have included 2 useful phrases each.

  1. Introduce your company (Useful Phrases No. 1-2)
  2. Explain why you are interested in their company/products (Useful Phrases No. 3-4)
  3. Explain more specifically why you would like to meet (Useful Phrases No. 5-6)
  4. Request a meeting (Useful Phrases No. 7-8)
  5. Close politely (Useful Phrase No. 9-10)

10 Useful Formal Phrases:

  1. We will be launching (name of product/service)… Our concept is to…
  2. I represent Company XYZ, a quality supplier of home automation devices in your vicinity.
  3. As you (may) know, …
  4. We feel we have great potential…
  5. We noticed on your website …
  6. … we would be interested in learning more about …
  7. We hope to organize this meeting…
  8. Would it be possible to arrange a meeting to discuss…?
  9. We look forward to hearing from you soon.
  10. Feel free to contact me at your earliest convenience.

E-Mail Sample:

  • To:
  • From: Sun and Shade Shoppe
  • Date:  15 March 20xx

Dear Comfy Home Representative,

We will be launching Sun and Shade Shoppe on Cape Cod at several locations this June.  Our concept is to offer environmentally friendly solutions to summer homeowners.

As you know, Cape Cod is a beach area which is a popular summer tourist attraction. We feel we have great potential in becoming successful if we can offer products that our competitors do not currently have available.

We noticed on your website that you offer several solutions for automatic blinds and awnings and would be very interested in learning more about them. Could we arrange a meeting with a Comfy Home sales representative to show us your latest technology?

We hope to organize this meeting by the end of the month so that our three shops can be fully stocked and employees trained by our launch date: 1 June 20xx.

We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best regards,

Janice Prommer
Purchasing Manager
Sun and Shade Shoppe

Extra Notes:

The e-mail above  reflects a formal style of writing very similar to what would formerly be written in a letter.

To adapt it to a letter format, you would need to change the address, of course, but also the closing, too.  I would recommend using “Sincerely” instead of “Best regards”.