How To Write Work Emails Effectively

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Business English By: Please log in to see tutor details
Subject: English » Business English
Last updated: 16/04/2018
Tags: business english, effective performance, email writing, english as a global language, writing

Many people working in the UK lack confidence when writing emails. They will be excellent communicators, work to high professional levels and be competent team players but the thought of writing emails can fill them with dread. 

One area that should be taken into consideration is work etiquette in the UK. For many people from overseas they realise that the British at work can communicate quite differently to colleagues in their native country. A new language isn't the only new 'thing' to grapple with as the use of politeness, understatement and not always getting straight to the point can be quite a surprise at first to a newcomer to the UK.

A second language speaker will often think:

  • "What rules apply to emails?"
  • "How formal or informal should I be?"
  • "Do I have to use long words?"

It's always important to remember there are 3 basic reasons for a work email:

  • You are providing information - Be crisp about what you write. Keep it clear. Keep it simple. Keep it concise.
  • You are requesting information. Specify the response you want. What do you want, when do you want, how do you want it?
  • The language should be friendly yet formal. (If you were writing an email to a good friend the language and tone would be very different to your work email).

Many of us lack confidence in writing generally and so it is useful to have a tool bag of strategies to help us overcome these barriers. Simple lists and plans that we can store away in our brain and retrieve at any time. Once we learn these simple ideas and file them away we will become more confident and quicker with our writing. There will be more time to spend on the important tasks that demand our time at work.

Here are some ideas worth storing away:

1. Lists for writing faster emails

  • Know what you want to achieve by sending the email
  • Plan it out
  • Write first then edit
  • What does it look like when you've finished? Is it easy to read and clearly set out?

 2. Your email plan strategy

  • A good subject line captures the idea set out in the email (look at some news headlines and see how they grab your attention) e.g. 'Feedback from client meeting 4.4.18' and 'Batch CO13 sample test results'
  • One point per email (Don't have too many points which confuse the reader).
  • If there is more than one idea set out the ideas with bold headlines and bullet points which make it easy on the eye and ideal for skimming over and retrieving information at a later date if necessary).
  • Don't worry too much about long words (they can be so over-rated). It's how you use words that count.
  • Think of the relationship you have with the recipient. Are they a stranger or do you have a friendly working relationship with them, either way be friendly and polite?

Now you have this quick email planning strategy, file it away safely somewhere in your brain. You will be able to access it at the click of your fingers whenever you want until it becomes instinctual.

Other considerations for more effective emails at work.

1. Distractions

Ask yourself what disrupts you at work and how can you prevent these disruptions impacting your productivity? They could include social media, gossip, noisy colleagues, day dreaming. Be aware of what's distracting you and take action to remedy this time wasting.

2. Time to write

  • When do you write emails?
  • Do you set aside a specific time to check and write them?

Some people set aside a time at the beginning or end of the working day to write the majority of their emails but this doesn't suit everyone as it depends on the nature of the job role. You may have to write an email as an immediate reaction to something that has occurred. So with any time management strategy it's important to complete urgent tasks first. Time management is an important part of any working day and thinking about how your email writing tasks fit into it is important for you to manage all your tasks.

Simple, clear, concise and attractive. This is what your email should look like. It may give information or request information but should always be polite with varying levels of friendliness. Be confident with these straightforward strategies and soon writing an emails will be an instinctive part of your working day.

Maria Beamont English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Teacher (East Central London)

About The Author

I am a qualified teacher with an excellent track record of preparing students for a range of English Language, Literature exams and English as a Second Language exams (GCSE, IELTS, FCE, B1,13+ Common Entrance).

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