Transcript: Write Better Emails in English

Jan 14, 2020

Transcript: Write Better Emails in English & Avoid Common Mistakes

Hey, it’s Annemarie with Speak Confident English and this is exactly where you want to be every week to get the confidence you want for your life and work in English.

Now, of course, most of what we do is all about confidence when speaking in English, but I also know that every day you’re probably writing some emails in English, especially if you use English at work. And I also know that you want your writing to be easy to understand, clear and correct. You also want those emails to be easy to write.

So today we’re a hundred percent focused on how to write better emails in English and some common mistakes to avoid.

Let’s dive in right away with the first of five tips to write better emails in English. The first one is always include a greeting and make sure that it’s correct.

Whether you’re writing to a potential new client for the very first time or a colleague that you see every day. It is always polite and friendly to start with a greeting.

Now I know that sometimes those email conversations get really long. You might send an email to your colleague to identify a date and a time for your next meeting. So you would start that first email with Hey Susan, or hi Susan.

And then over the next day, maybe there are 20 emails back and forth as you try to decide on a date and a time. And when that happens, it’s perfectly appropriate later in that series of emails to stop using a greeting. But the very first one should always have one.

Now before I talk about how to have the correct greeting, I’ve got an insider tip for you. I just talked about those long email conversations where you go back and forth. In English, we call that an email chain or a chain of emails.

So again, in the first email you should always have a greeting because it’s professional, polite, and friendly. But as you go through that email chain, it’s perfectly appropriate to stop using that greeting, especially with people you know well.

Now the second thing about greetings is to make sure that they are correct. And what that means is knowing who you’re writing to. You would be surprised by how many emails I get every week that begin with, dear sir. I’m definitely not a sir, and what that tells me is the writer has no idea who I am.

I’ve got a question for you. If you get an email and the greeting is completely wrong, how likely are you to read that email or read it carefully? You’re probably a little less likely to read it or less interested because that person has no idea who you are.

The greeting you use in your email is the first impression your reader has and you want that impression to be professional, polite, and friendly.

If you’re not sure about which greetings to use or what words to use, I’ve got a full lesson on that topic. I’ll share a link in the video and in the notes below the video as well.

Tip number two is to have the correct level of formality. Here’s what I mean. If you have a colleague that you send an email to three times a week or every day, you don’t want to begin that email with dear Ms. Fowler. It’s way too formal for someone that you email regularly and when our emails are too formal, they show a lot of distance. They’re cold and unfriendly. So we want to be careful about being too formal.

But you also don’t want to be too informal too fast. For example, if you’re writing an email to a brand new client, you probably wouldn’t start that email with, Hey, what’s up Susan? That kind of language is only appropriate for someone you know well someone that you feel very close to. So it’s all about finding that right balance of formality.

Now I know you might be feeling worried right now about how to avoid being too formal and cold and how to avoid being too informal too soon. And don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. I actually have several lessons that focus on language you should use in emails and language that allows you to be polite and friendly in English.

I’m going to share links to those so that you can watch those as soon as you’re finished with this one and get the right language for your emails.

Tip number three is especially important if you’re writing emails for work and you want to look like a professional, make sure that your grammar, punctuation, and spelling are correct.

This is a challenge for everyone, including native speakers. We definitely start typing too fast on the keyboard. We don’t pay attention, we don’t read our emails, and sometimes that means there might be a lot of mistakes and those mistakes look unprofessional.

The more you can reduce those errors, the better your emails are. And I know that this is an area that’s really challenging. Number one, English spelling is a nightmare. And number two, I know our grammar is difficult, but I have a super easy solution for you and it’s free.

There’s an app that I love to use on my computer called Grammarly. In fact, my whole team uses it. Grammarly is the perfect place for you to copy and paste your email to check your grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

So if you’re feeling nervous about your grammar or spelling in an email, I’ll leave a link to the Grammarly application just below this video. It’s totally free to use and it will absolutely help you feel more confident when you’re sending your emails.

Now, before I move on to tip four, let me give you an example of what an unprofessional email with lots of spelling and grammar errors might look like. Take a look at this email and see if you can identify some of the problems. You should immediately notice that words like I’m or English aren’t capitalized and in a professional email they absolutely should be.

You’ll also notice that there’s no space between the first two sentences and that makes it very difficult to read. Again, you want a space after the period and the first word of a sentence should definitely be capitalized.

Tip number four for writing better emails in English is to always have a very clear subject line. I want you to think about your email inbox for a moment and all the different emails you have. Which ones are you more likely to read? You’re probably more likely to read the ones with a clear subject because you know exactly what the email is about.

The other reason clear subject lines are important is emails contain important details. Have you ever read an email and then three days later you were trying to remember where you read that information and you’re searching through five or six or 27 different emails to find that information?

Well, it’s much easier when the subject line is clear and it’s connected to the information in the email, so always make sure your subject lines are very clear. Earlier we talked about those long email chains that happen when the conversation goes back and forth. Sometimes during a long email chain, the subject of the conversation changes and that’s a great time for you to edit or change the subject of the email and that will automatically make it easier for people to find the email information they need when they’re looking for it later.

Now, if you’re not sure what I mean, let me give you a clear example with these two subject lines. Number one is question about English. Number two is question about dates for fluency school.

Which one of those is more specific?

Definitely the second one. I know exactly what this person wants or what information they’re looking for, and the first email, I have no idea what their question might be.

It could be about English people, English culture, English language about grammar, spelling. I have no idea. It’s very unclear. The more specific your subject line is, the better it is for your reader.

Tip number five for writing better emails in English is to keep your emails short and only focus on the most important details.

This is one of the biggest challenges my students have and it’s one of the questions I hear the most. My students always want to know how they can be more concise in an email. To be concise means to give a lot of information in a very clear way without using too many words. That means we have to be very careful about what we say in the email, how many details we provide and what words we use.

The opposite is when the email is too long with big paragraphs that are difficult to read. Let me give you an example.

In this sample email, I’m showing you the beginning of someone summarizing a meeting that took place. As you can immediately see, there’s one big long paragraph and it’s hard to know what the important details or information might be in that paragraph. I have to be very careful reading it and do it slowly.

You’ll also see that it’s very wordy. What that means is there are too many words and we actually repeat some words again and again. For example, you can see the words meeting discussed, adjust multiple times in the email. It would be much simpler and better if we only used those words once.

So let me show you how we can simplify that. There’s one easy thing that we can do. Use bullet points and instead of writing long sentences and full paragraphs, identify the most important details and use a bulleted list or a numbered list to show that information and the bulleted list makes it much easier for the reader to focus on the important information.

And those are your five tips for writing better emails in English and avoiding some common mistakes.

Just to recap, those five tips are: always have a greeting and make sure it’s correct. Have the right balance of formality in your email. Make sure your grammar, punctuation, and spelling are correct. Always use a subject line that is clear and specific. And number five, keep your email concise.

Now before we finish, I have a challenge question for you. I want to know what is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received for writing professional emails. You might have some advice that is exactly what someone else needs today. It’s very possible that someone in the Confident English community is stressing out about what to write in an email today and you might have the perfect piece of advice.

So I would love to hear what that is. You can share your advice with me just below this video or in the comments of the online lesson before I finish.

If you found this lesson useful to you, I would love to know and you can tell me in three simple ways. Number one, give this lesson a thumbs up on YouTube and subscribe to the Speak Confident English channel so you never miss one of my lessons.

Number two, you can share this with friends and colleagues on Facebook or LinkedIn.

And number three, if you have a friend or a colleague who wants to write better emails in English, email them this lesson directly with that, have a fantastic week.

Thank you so much for joining me and I’ll see you next time for your Confident English lesson.

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