Emails are among the most commonly used means of communication in the world. They’re fast, immediate, and allow you to interact with all kinds of businesses within and beyond the national boundaries. At work above all, writing formal emails in English in the right way requires certain skills, and being a professional situation, it’s essential not to commit mistakes in order to make a good impression of yourself and your company.
The rules for writing formal emails in English
To write an email in English in the right way, don’t improvise! Read the following advice to avoid making serious mistakes that could compromise the success of the email from the moment it is received.
The subject is the first piece of information that the recipients of an email see, and if it’s written incorrectly or unclearly, it could push the reader to delete it without even opening it! So it’s important to give a clear and precise message, right from the start, indicating the content or reason for writing in two or three words that grabs the attention of the recipient.
Unlike many other languages which require long complex sentences in a formal written context, English is very concise and favors short sentences and a simple structure. Make sure you break up the text into two or three paragraphs – this enables the reader to quickly see the key points.
When you write an email in English, you’re not only using another language but you’re also entering another culture with different habits. The Anglo-Saxons in general pay a lot of attention to forms of courtesy and gratitude, therefore never forget to add them.
Check the email
Never send an email in English without having re-read what you wrote. Grammatical or typing mistakes are very common even in your own language, so in English you can make errors much more easily. Double-checking what you’ve written is a simple step to take that can prevent you from appearing unprofessional and above all careless.
Be sure to have set your emails to end with all the important information about you, including:
name and surname
relative details about your company (name, address.)
link to the company website
The format of a formal email in English
Depending on the type of relationship you have with the person you’re writing to, there are different ways of starting an email, but any email should always start with a greeting. In our specific case being formal, the most appropriate options are:
Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms (surname of the recipient, e.g. Mr Black)
Dear Sir/Madam (if you don’t know the name of the recipient) or more generally ‘To whom it may concern’
After the initial greeting you need an introductory sentence that indicates clearly the reason for writing and is consistent with the subject of the email. Introduce yourself briefly (long texts often discourage people from reading them), then follow on with:
I am writing with regard to… (email subject)
I am writing in connection with… (email subject)
I am writing in reference to…
If you’re writing an email to send information, you can start with one of the following sentences:
I am writing to let you know…
I am delighted to tell you… (if you’re communicating good news)
I regret to inform you that… (if you’re communicating bad news)
If instead you’re replying to an email you received, you can say:
I am writing in response to…
I am writing in reply to…
I am writing to thank you for… (if you need to thank the recipient)
Body of the text
There are no conventional formulas for writing the body of the text because this varies according to the function of what you need to communicate. It’s useful to prepare an initial draft and then proceed with any corrections.
The general rules are that the text should be divided into short paragraphs that avoid abbreviations and acronyms, both of which you can use, on the contrary, when you write an informal email to family and friends.
Based on the type of message you’re sending, there are various ways to write a final invitation before ending the email, such as:
I look forward to hearing from you soon
Thank you in advance
For further information, please do not hesitate to contact me
Please let me know if you have any questions
Thanks for your attention
The most common way to end an email are:
Yours faithfully (if you began the email with ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ because you don’t know the name of the recipient)
Yours sincerely (if you began the email with ‘Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms + surname)