1. How to Write Email Greetings
With emails, you can start like a letter. For example:
- Dear Lina,
- Dear Sir/Madam,
- Dear Mr Hill,
However, emails are generally much less formal than letters. Use a greeting with dear only if you’re writing something formal.
So, what else can you use?
Many emails in English start with hello, or hi plus the person’s name. For example,
In many business emails, you’ll follow the greeting with something like:
- I hope you’re well.
- How are you?
In business emails, these are simply polite phrases, and they don’t generally need an answer.
For more informal emails, you can start with just the word hi or hey, plus a comma:
You can also just write the person’s name plus a comma. This is a more professional style, even though it’s more informal. It’s best with people you already know.
For a very informal email, you might not use a greeting at all. This is also true if you’re sending several emails to the same person in a short time: you don’t need to write a greeting every time.
Let’s review quickly:
For very formal emails, use a greeting with dear plus a name, like a letter.
For most everyday emails, use either hello or hi plus a name.
For less formal emails, use hi or hey without a name, or don’t use a greeting at all.
Okay, but what next?
2. Explaining Why You’re Writing
After your greeting, you should explain why you’re writing. Make this as short as possible.
If you’re writing to someone who receives hundreds of emails every day, you need to make your purpose clear quickly. Someone who’s very busy won’t spend a lot of time trying to work out what you’re trying to say!
How can you do this?
Start with a simple phrase, like:
- I’m writing regarding…
- I wanted to follow up on…
- I would like to ask about…
These phrases are slightly more formal. Let’s see how you could use them:
- I’m writing regarding the issues we’ve been having with our database system.
- I wanted to follow up on our meeting last week and confirm our plans for this month.
- I would like to ask about the new budget and whether this will affect our department.
In a more informal email, you wouldn’t use a phrase like this. You might ask a more direct question or make a direct statement, like this:
- Do you know when the database issues will be fixed?
- Let’s confirm our plans for this month.
- How will the new budget affect our department?
If you’re writing because you want to find a solution to a problem, here are some useful phrases:
- I’m concerned about…
- I need to bring something to your attention: …
Again, these are more formal phrases.
Let’s see how you can use them:
- I’m concerned about the number of sick days staff have been taking recently.
- I need to bring something to your attention: using outdated software puts us at risk of malware infections and data loss.
Now it’s your turn. Imagine that you’re writing an email to your manager, colleague, or client. You need to write an appropriate greeting, then write one or two sentences to explain why you’re writing.
Pause the video and do it now! Start again when you’ve finished.
Ready? Let’s move on.
3. Adding Details to Your Email
After you introduce why you’re writing, you need to add details and supporting information, so that your reader understands the situation you’re describing.
Put this information in a new paragraph. This will make your email clear and easy to follow.
First, ask yourself what the person you’re writing to needs to know.
With emails in English, less is more. No one wants to read a very long email, and it’s hard to make yourself clear if you write too much.
So, try to limit yourself to two to three sentences. Put your most important point first.
Let’s look at some examples:
- I’m writing regarding the issues we’ve been having with our database
- Both clients and staff have been experiencing severe problems for several days now. We are unable to update records or access information on customer interactions. This is costing us large amounts of money, both in time spent trying to fix the problem, and in lost sales.
Here’s one more:
- I’m concerned about the number of sick days staff have been taking recently.
- Staff in the IT department have taken a total of 44 sick days so far this month, compared to a total of 23 for last month, and just 18 for the previous month. This is affecting productivity, and also placing a lot of stress on the employees who do come to work.
In both cases, you’re writing to describe a problem. Your first sentence introduces the problem, and then your next paragraph gives more details.
You can see that in both examples, we use just two sentences, but you can include a lot of useful information in two sentences.
If you have more than one point to make in your email, you can repeat this pattern: first put a short sentence to introduce your point, then add a paragraph with two to three sentences to add details.
You can move from one point to another using a phrase like:
- There’s one more thing I’d like to discuss with you.
- I’d also like to ask you about…
Use one of these phrases to change the topic, and then introduce your next point.
- There’s one more thing I’d like to discuss with you. It seems like the number of customer complaints has been increasing for three months…
Now, you can practice. Take the email you started before. Add a new paragraph, which should be two to three sentences long. Add details to the point you introduced before.
Pause the video and do it now. If you want extra practice, add another topic to your email, using one of the linking phrases you just saw.
After you explain all the points you want to make, what should you do next?
4. Adding a Call to Action to Your Email
When learning how to write emails in English, it’s important to make it clear what you expect from the person you’re sending it to.
Even if you’re writing just to give the other person some information, it’s a good idea to make that clear.
Put your call to action in a new paragraph. Again, putting each thing in its own paragraph makes your email structured and easy to follow.
So, what can you write here?
First, let’s consider situations where you need the other person to do something urgently. You could say:
- Please … by tomorrow at the latest.
- As a matter of urgency, you need to…
- Please arrange a meeting of all department heads by tomorrow at the latest.
- As a matter of urgency, you need to contact all the clients who may have been affected by this data breach.
If your request is less urgent, you could use phrases such as:
- Could you please…?
- I would like you to…
- Could you please talk to Matt in the HR department and clarify our options on this?
- I would like you to design a poster to inform staff about the new policies.
With calls to action, you should think about your relationship with the person you’re writing to.
For example, saying something like, you need to… or I would like you to… is relatively direct. That’s fine if you’re a manager writing to one of your team, but it might sound inappropriate if you write that to your manager.
This also depends on the corporate culture where you work. Generally, if you aren’t sure, it’s better to be less direct.
- I suggest that you contact all clients who may have been affected by the data breach.
- Can I ask you to design a poster to inform staff about the new policies?
But, be careful! Don’t be so indirect that the other person doesn’t understand what you need.
If you don’t need a response from the other person, say something like:
- This is just to keep you updated.
- This doesn’t require any immediate response, but please keep an eye on the situation.
Now, it’s your turn! Pause the video and add a call to action to the end of your email. Think about who you’re writing to, and make your call-to-action appropriately direct or indirect.
So, now you’re nearly finished. What’s left?
5. Adding a Sign-off to Your Email
Finish your email with a sign-off and your name.
You can use a lot of the same sign-offs you can use in a paper letter, such as:
- Best Wishes,
- Kind Regards,
Like with greetings, you wouldn’t generally use very formal sign-offs like Yours Sincerely in an email. You might see it sometimes, but only in very formal emails.
Don’t forget to write each word of your sign-off with a capital letter, and put a comma at the end.
The sign-offs you’ve just seen are neutral and can be used in almost any situation.
If you’re writing something more informal, you might use a sign-off like:
In this case, you wouldn’t capitalise each word, which is why care in take care has a small ‘c’.
Like with greetings, you might not need a sign-off at all in an informal email. Just write your name at the bottom, or don’t write anything at all!
After you put your sign-off, add your name, and you’ve finished! For example,
Now you know how to write a clear, effective email in English.
Let’s put everything you’ve learned together.
6. How to Write an Email in English
To write an effective email in English, you need to:
- Use an appropriate greeting.
- Introduce your topic in a single sentence.
- Add details to your topic in a short paragraph.
- Add a call-to-action to explain what you need the other person to do.
- Use an appropriate signoff.
Let’s do a longer example together:
- I need to bring something to your attention: many staff are using very weak passwords on their laptops and for database access.
- Our work depends on keeping our clients’ personal financial information safe. If we lose our clients’ trust on this issue, it will not be easy to recover. I trust that you can see that it is better to take action now, rather than after something goes wrong.
- I suggest we make a rule that passwords must be a specific length, and that staff must change their passwords at least once a month. Please let me know what you think about this.
What do you think: could you write an email like this?
Try it! Use words and phrases from the lesson. Remember to organise your email into paragraphs, like we showed you. This will make it easier to keep your ideas structured and clear.
Thanks for watching this business English lesson from Oxford Online English!