Six Ways to Write Better Business English Emails
©The English Center 2020
3 minute read
Business writing is an art. Take the time to do it well!
1. Choose a good email subject line. The subject line orients the recipient to your content. It tells them what to expect, and that enhances readability. A good subject line may even be the reason that the busy recipient chooses to open (or not open) your email!
2. In general, use active sentences when writing business English. Let me explain. An active sentence begins with the subject, as in the sentence,”Brenda wrote the report.” That (active) structure is prefered to this sentence, “This report was written by Brenda.” (passive structure).In Dutch, passive sentences are more acceptable and common. But in English, active sentences inform us “who and what” at the beginning of the sentence, and that is the way we like it!
3. Avoid overlong sentences with too many phrases. Tame unruly, run-on sentences with periods. And remember, short sentences have their place. It is pleasant to read a text that has a variety of sentence lengths. When you vary length, the short sentences “pop” and will receive extra attention. Get it?
4. Use correct punctuation. If you do not know the difference between a colon, semicolon, a hyphen, and a dash – find out. Remember, simple comma placement is the difference between “No, more margaritas!” And “No more margaritas!” Punctuation matters!
5. Use paragraphing to keep related ideas together and to break up big blocks of text. Big blocks do not make you look smart, they just make you hard to read. Make it easy for your reader to see where one idea ends and another begins. In a high value communication, be sure to use “hook” sentences at the beginning and end of each paragraph to create smooth, connected transitions.
6. Finally, review your email before you send it. You will nearly always find typos and other imperfections. My personal trick is to read once or twice from the top down and then from the bottom up. The backwards flow will often reveal problems that your brain does not identify when reading in the normal top down way. And of course for important emails, blog posts, reports etc., just “save” and walk away! Work on something else and then come back to your text. New opportunities for improvements will almost always be visible after a break.
Do you have to write a lot of business emails? Read this article next!
Would you like to take a focused private course to polish up your English? You can request a free consultation. Or just call us! We are happy to speak with you in English or Dutch.
+31 20 823 0569.
Brenda de Jong-Pauley, MA
Director, The English Center
Article updated April 2022