In the article we’ll figure out how to write a business email in English.
This article was prepared as part of a series of articles on learning English.
Business correspondence is an integral part of office work. When cooperating with foreign clients or partners, you will need to write a business letter sooner or later. A competently composed letter, first of all, speaks about your attitude to work and can tell a lot about you to the addressee. Let’s find out how to write business letters in English beautifully and competently.
If your letter is not written on company letterhead, and, accordingly, your letter does not have a “cap,” then all the information about your company will need to be written separately.
So, imagine the situation. At work, you suddenly need to write a letter in English to an employee of some foreign company. This makes even those who seem to know English quite nervous. A lot of questions immediately arise in your head. “What should I write in the subject line?”; “How should I address the addressee?”; “How the hell should I finish this letter?”
Don’t worry! We have divided the typical English business letter into five parts, and now, in simple words, we will tell you how and what to write in each of them.
Part 1 – Letter Subject
It is worth remembering that a clearly defined subject will immediately let your English-speaking recipient know what you want to say in your letter and how important it can be. Here, it is important to remember that brevity is the sister of talent, and you should try your best to keep it to five or six words. For example, if we need to talk about preparing for an upcoming meeting, you could write something like “Planning for upcoming meeting.” If you are sending an invoice from your company and would like to discuss some financial stuff, you could write something like “Invoice from Start2Study.”
Part 2 – The Address
The text of the letter to your English-speaking addressee should begin, of course, with an address to him or her. It is written in the first line and separated by a comma, and the main text after it is written on a new line.
The following constructions can be used as an address:
- Dear Mr. Smith, – Address to a particular man.
- Dear Ms. Smith, – A universal reference for both married and unmarried women.
- Dear Sir or Madam, – Universal reference when you are not sure if a man or woman is going to reply to your letter.
- To whom it may concern – A very formal address, which can be used when you don’t know who in the company will respond to your letter.
In addition, in some cases, the following titles of the addressee are used:
- Medical titles: Doctor (Dr.), Professor (Prof.);
- Military ranks: Captain (Capt.), Major (Maj.), Colonel (CoI.), General (Gen);
There is also Esq. (an abbreviation for Esquire), now rather rarely used. Esq. can be used instead of Mr., in which case it is placed after the name (e.g., John Brown, Esq.). Note that Mr. and Esq. cannot be used at the same time.
If you do not know the exact job title of the addressee, you can send the letter to a specific department of the company, for example, the Sales Department or the Financial Department, etc. Otherwise, you can address the letter directly to the company as a whole, stating its full name.
After the recipient’s name/company name, the recipient’s address is written directly. For example, this is the standard for address spelling in the UK:
- Name of the house/building/business center
- House number and street/venue/alley name, etc.
- City name and zip code
- Name of country
- Industrial House
- 34-41 Craig Road
- BL4 8 TF
In other countries, the house number may come after the street name. In addition, instead of the full name of the country, you may often see just the first letter of the country followed by the zip code. The index and city name can be on the same line or on different lines. Sometimes the country name is entered in capital letters.
Further, as an alternative to putting the recipient’s name/position before the recipient’s address, you can optionally include an additional “to the attention of so-and-so” line, or as it is called in English, “attention line.” For example, For the Attention of the Finance Director.
Part 3 – The main text of the letter
In the first paragraph, you need to let the recipient know why you wrote the letter. If you want to express several thoughts in your letter at once, it is better to begin each of them in a new paragraph.
So, the opening sentence of the first paragraph of your letter in English can begin with lines like these:
- I am writing to:
- inform you
- ask you
- thank you
- I would like to:
- discuss with you
- thank you
Part 4 – Attachment
If you decide to attach some terribly important document (quarterly report, presentation, invoice, or contract) to your letter, it’s a good idea to let your English-speaking recipient know about it.
You can do this with simple phrases:
- I am attaching… (the document you requested)
- I am sending you… (the document you requested)
- Please find attached… (the document you requested)
Part 5 – Finishing the letter
According to the rules of good manners for a business letter in English, we need to spectacularly conclude with a special phrase. After it, by the way, you should write your name, surname, position, company name, and contact information (like phone number and company website).
At the end of the letter you can write such phrases in English:
- Regards, / Best regards,
- Yours sincerely, (in case you know the name of your interlocutor)
- Yours faithfully, (in case you do not know the name of your interlocutor)
- Sincerely yours,
These are the basics when writing a business letter in English!
Part 6 – Check the letter for errors
Double-check the letter for lexical and grammatical errors.
- Avoid the words must, should, demand, require, or necessity when addressing your interlocutor.
- Avoid abbreviations: can’t, wouldn’t, etc.
- Try not to use an exclamation mark (!) in business correspondence. (If you really want to, you can, but no more than once in a letter.)
- Do not use emojis/emoticons.
- Always try to thank your interlocutor.
1. Start with a meaningful subject line.
2. Address them appropriately.
3. Keep the email concise and to the point.
4. Make it easy to read.
5. Do not use slang.
6. Be kind and thankful.
7. Be charismatic.
8. Bring up points in your previous conversation.
Now you know how to write a business email in English properly. If you still have any questions about this topic, write them in the comments below.