How to structure your e-mails

09/28/2015

How to structure your e-mails

My name is Giovanni, and I grew up in southern Italy. For the past six years I have been happily working at an international construction firm. Part of my job involves daily email correspondence with clients, mostly in English - not a problem for me now. But when I first started, I often had the impression that people weren't reading or couldn't understand my emails.

Given the importance of emails in today's business world, you'll understand just how frustrating this was for me. I usually had to send yet another email to clarify what I thought was already clear in my first email. This is an obstacle for many of us who learn English as a second language. I've come up with some email phrases that help me, and hopefully now you, get the most out of email correspondence in English:

  • One of the best ways to make sure your email is comprehensible is to include words that link your ideas together. In addition to words such as "and", but", "or", etc., you can also use linking words to supplement things you have already said ("in addition" and "also" are two major email phrases I use for this purpose) or to make comparisons and contrast (I prefer "likewise" and "however").
  • We all know the typical "if/then" phrases, but if I am looking for a more formal option, I use "on the understanding that…". It not only comes across as more professional, but it also gives me a chance to reiterate the thought or concept I want my client to understand.
  • I recommend you make more use of relative pronouns such as "who", "what" and "which". They allow you to establish a link back to something you have already said, which helps you make useful distinctions.
  • Finally, when it comes time to end my email or to summarize my thoughts, I usually start a sentence with "in conclusion" or "to sum up". These phrases make it clear that the end is near and gives me one last chance to concisely restate the points I want to make.
     

For many young professionals, writing business correspondence and emails in English is difficult. Berlitz offers a targeted module in which students can learn English from a business perspective with a focus on written/email correspondence. It is a wonderful way to improve communication skills as well as increase marketability on an international level.
 

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