Operation Email: 7 Simple Steps to Write Smooth Business Emails in English
The name is Bond, James Bond.
While that may be a great movie line, it’s not the way you should start your business emails.
So, how should you begin?
And what should you include, besides using some relevant business phrases?
This handy guide—with seven simple steps—will have you writing strong business emails in no time (very soon)!
But before we get to step one, let’s quickly look at a few basic words related to emailing in English:
Essential English Email Vocabulary
- Recipient — This is the person you’re writing an email to.
- Sender — This is you, the person sending the email.
- Attachment — Any file (.pdf, .doc, .ppt, etc.) attached to the email is an attachment.
- CC — “Carbon copy”
- BCC — “Blind carbon copy”
- Subject line — This is the topic of the email, which the recipient will see when the email arrives in their inbox.
- Draft — When you’re writing an email, it’s saved as a draft. This is an unfinished email, as you haven’t sent it yet.
Below, you’ll find a guide that includes some additional specific language you can put in emails. For more ideas, check out the video “Writing a Business Email.”
7 Easy Steps to Writing a Strong Business Email in English
1. Start Your Email with a Greeting
So you are probably thinking, Where do I start? What greeting (salutation) should I use?
Being polite is important in business, and greetings are an important part of this.
To keep greetings simple, here are three that you can use in 90% of business situations:
- Hi [First Name], (informal)
- Hello Mr./Ms. [Last Name], (formal)
Hello Ms. Smith,
Hello Mr. Bond,
- Hello [Team Name], (to groups)
Hello Sales Team,
Hello Marketing Team,
Notice that we always start with a capital letter, and there is a comma ( , ) after each greeting. Let’s now look at each situation in more detail.
Informal email greetings
Using first names is appropriate (okay) when you meet the person regularly and you feel comfortable using their first name with them. Often these are coworkers or people you know who prefer to be called by their first name.
Formal email greetings
Using titles and last names is a formal greeting, and you should use it with anyone that you do not know well. Whether that is a new client for the company, or the HR (Human Resources) guy that falls asleep while waiting for the elevator, this basic greeting works.
If you’re ever sending an email to an address that doesn’t have a specific contact name, use the name of the department/team (i.e. Dear Human Resources Department) or “Dear Sir/Madam” if possible. Otherwise, you can use the formal “To Whom It May Concern” greeting.
Email greetings to groups
When writing to groups of people, think about your relationship to the group.
If it’s a group of people you know really well, you can use something more informal such as “Hi all,” “Hi team” or “Hi everyone.”
If it’s a small group of people (five or less), use their first names: Dear Sarah, Roxy and Chad.
If it’s a more formal email, you can use greetings such as “Dear Coworkers,” “Dear Colleagues” or “Dear Hiring Committee.”
2. Tell The Recipient Who You Are
When you write an email, sometimes the recipient doesn’t know you or remember you. So, you have to tell your reader who you are. This includes people who you met briefly at conferences or people who may not recognize your email address.
How do you do it? Simple: State your name and how the reader would recognize (know/remember) you.
Hello James Bond,
My name is Joe Milan. We met at the Villain Conference in London last March and discussed ways my company could help you prevent evil from taking over the world.
Short and simple. They don’t need a long history, just something brief (short) that will help them remember or know who you are.
Remember: The most common mistakes of the greeting are forgetting a salutation (Hello) and writing too much. Keep it simple, no more than a couple sentences.
3. State Your Purpose for Writing
After your greeting, you need a simple sentence that clearly states why you are emailing. Are you making a request? Providing information? Apologizing? Complaining? Sending a document?
Get straight to the point with a clear sentence explaining what you want.
Hello James Bond,
My name is Joe Milan and I’m a Villain Recruiting Representative at WorldTakeOver Inc. We spoke last March at the Villain Conference in London. We would like your help with the Bad Man Conference in Las Vegas this September.
No details yet, that comes next.
4. Give Useful Details
After stating your purpose, you’ll want to briefly provide any useful, relevant information. Here’s what the next paragraph in my email to James Bond might look like:
At the feedback sessions on September 15 (www.badmanconference/sessions/feedback), our company will be discussing ideas about using and hiding “Really Big Lasers.” While we expect a lot of feedback from the general audience, we would like your expertise on two points:
1. Your opinion of the project and the issues raised from the audience
2. Overseeing the quality of the refreshments provided by WorldTakeOver
The above paragraph gives details about the conference and what the company wants James to do. The useful details such as the date, topics and a the conference website is all present in this email. James has everything he needs to take action.
If you’re attaching any documents to the email, tell the recipient with a phrase like: “I’ve attached ~,” “Please find ~ attached” or “Please find the attached ~.”
5. Tell What Action Is Needed
We’ve given a purpose and details, so now we need to tell the recipient what action they need to take. Let’s look at two possible endings for the body paragraph. This first one is not a good option:
Let me know what you think.
It’s not good because it’s not clear. Yes, it’s short, but it doesn’t say exactly what James needs to think about or what he should respond (and when). Let’s try again:
Please let me know via email ASAP if you can participate. If you can attend, please include (1) any recommendations you have for the refreshments and (2) an outline of the materials you’ll need to give your feedback.
Look forward to hearing from you,
So between these two options, which one makes the next action clear? Obviously the second example. It tells James exactly what he should do next, and “ASAP” (as soon as possible) tells him to respond right away.
Remember: When you write the body paragraphs of your email, always include three parts: (1) your purpose, (2) useful details, (3) the next action needed. Do those three things, and you will write a good business email.
6. Close the Email
Always finish your emails with one of the following sign-offs, followed by your name.
- Hope this helps,
- Have a great day,
- Thank you so much,
- Look forward to hearing from you,
- Let me know if you have any questions,
The difference between “the classics” and “the non-traditional” is really about you. Is this a regular email that you send often? If so, a classic closing makes sense.
However, if you feel that this email should be more than just a regular email, then consider using a “non-traditional” closing. Be careful not to use these if you don’t mean it.
For example, it would be very awkward if you write “Look forward to hearing from you,” if you don’t want them to write back. And if you’re sending negative news, it probably wouldn’t be appropriate to end with “Have a great day!”
7. End with Your Signature
When you write a letter, you finish with your signature (signing your name). In email, after your closing with your name, you can automatically include an email “signature.” An email signature comes at the very end, and includes essential contact information.
Here’s an example:
Joe Milan | Villain Recruiting Representative
WorldTakeOver, Inc. | worldtakeoverinc.evil
Villain@WorldTakeOver.Evil | (999) 666-6666
1550 Secret Dr. Hideout Island, FL 99999 USA
Common mistakes in email signatures
Here are three common mistakes that people make in their email signatures:
- Not including enough contact information. Remember that signatures are for people both inside and outside the company to contact you. Sometimes the best way is send you an email, other times it could be by phone, fax, your website or in person.
- Using fonts/colors/graphics. Often it doesn’t look professional and sometimes pictures don’t look the same on all email programs. Remember, it’s about communication and information, so usually it’s better to just use plain text.
- Inspirational quotes. For many people, an inspirational quote is the best way to share their personality. In business, it’s just more clutter on the page. It often looks more personal than professional.
Business Email Pre-send Checklist
We covered a lot. From basic greetings and sign-offs, to bodies of typical business emails. Since that’s a lot of material, we’ve made a handy checklist so you can always remember these seven steps.
- Greeting. If you don’t know the recipient well, be formal and use: “Hello Mr./Ms./Mrs. [Last Name].”
- Tell the recipient who you are. If the recipient won’t remember you, remind them in one sentence: “I’m ~ who works for ~.”
- State your purpose. Clearly tell the recipient why you’re writing.
- Give useful details. Include what, where and when. Link to any relevant websites, and tell the recipient if you’ve attached a document.
- Tell what action is needed. Make sure it’s clear what the recipient must do next.
- Close the email. Use a classic sign-off like “Best” for common emails.
- Signature. Make sure your signature looks professional and has enough contact information.
With this checklist, your business emails will be powerful enough to defeat (win over) any evil villains, just like James Bond is!