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Now that we have clarified how to begin an English-language business email, as well as address a variety of common business email exchanges, let’s discuss how to handle the trickier situations that may come up in an office context.

1. Giving an apology

Mistakes happen, and it may occur at some point that you must apologize to a colleague or customer via email. In this case, start the appropriate salutation, and go directly into the apology in the first line of the message. The phrases “I sincerely apologize for….”or “I am incredibly sorry that…” will be suitable. Especially with clients or customers, close the message by stating that “Rest assured that we will resolve this issue as quickly as possible, and that it will not occur again in the future.” This statement indicates that the business takes ownership of its mistakes and care about quality.

2. Notification of rejection or bad news

Giving bad news to anyone is always a drag, and the same goes for emails. Oftentimes, it may help to think of these messages like a sandwich—in layers. Give an opening, kind sentence, follow with the line of bad news, and close the email with one more kind sentence. One example may be:

Dear Mr. Johnson,

Our firm was very pleased to host you for an interview last week, and were really impressed with your portfolio. (kind) Unfortunately, there was a pool of exceptional candidates for this position, and we have selected another to fulfil this role. (negative)

Please do not see this as a negative reflection on your own capacities. We wish you the best of luck in your future career. (kind)

With Kind Regards,

John Smith

3. Expressing gratitude

There are many ways to thank someone in an email, and it’s important to do so if someone has gone above and beyond for you at work. Some great phrases to express gratitude include “I’m so appreciative that you…..” or “Thank you for all your efforts, I am so grateful!” and “Many thanks for all your help!”. It’s also a nice gesture to offer to reciprocate a favor for the person that helped you, such as offering coffee or lunch.

4. Making a referral

Referral are an important aspect of business culture. If you receive a request from a colleague, client, or outside asking for a contact, follow the rules for appropriate forwarding and replying (ie, use CC and BCC appropriately, and beware of ‘reply all!’). For example, Mr. Johnson asks John Smith to make a referral for him to Ms. Brown at another company. Mr. Smith can use phrases in his email to Ms. Brown like “I highly recommend Mr. Johnson…” “an asset to your team because…” and close with “would it be alright if I introduce you/put you in touch?.”

5. Proper closings

There are several options for signing off an email. Whichever you choose, be sure to ALWAYS do a spell-check and read-though before sending—not doing so will make you seem sloppy and give a bad impression to the reader. Options include:


-Best Wishes

-Kind Regards


-With Gratitude

… choose the one that best fits the tone of your message. Good luck with your email-writing!

Last week, in Part I of our blog, we learned about how to properly address and begin a business email in English. In this post, we will discuss how to appropriately address a variety of business needs in an email message.

1. Making an appointment This is perhaps one of the most common email purposes in the business world. If you are the sender, use the question structure “Would it be possible for us to meet on….?” and give the receiver a few date and time options to choose from. Typically, a two-week time frame is manageable to set up most meetings.

2. Confirming an appointment

If you are the original sender, make sure that when your sender replies, you add the meeting as an e-calendar invitation so both parties are aware of it. A reply can be “Dear ____, Thank you for your confirmation. I look forward to meeting on _____.” If you are the receiver who must confirm a meeting, be sure to restate the agreed upon time. Reply with a line such as “Dear ____, Monday, 03 July at 16:00 will work well for me. I look forward to meeting with you then.”

3. Asking for general information

There are cases when sending an email is better for a short question to a colleague, especially if digital files or scheduling are involved. Be clear in your message, and state exactly what action is needed from the colleague, using headings or bullet points if necessary. For example:

Subject: Annual Report edits and presentation

Dear Sandra,

I hope you’re having a nice week. I just have two quick questions for you regarding the Annual Report:

1. Where can we save the first draft so our marketing team can edit is collaboratively?

2. Could you please set up an appointment with the Board so we can present our findings next month?

Thank you so much!

Kind Regards,


In this message, it’s very clear from the subject what the email is about. It’s also clear from the list what Sandra is being asked to do, and what information Anne needs to move forward with her work.

4. Referring to an attachment

We all work with digital attachments, and it is important to refer to them correctly in the context of a business email. NEVER send attachments without specifying in the message why they are there! This will annoy and confuse readers, and looks sloppy on behalf of the sender. The appropriate way to refer to an attachment is as follows.

Subject: Annual Report Draft 2 - Comments needed

Dear Bill,

Thanks for a productive meeting yesterday. My team has now made several edits on the Annual Report document, and Draft 2 is attached here.

I would appreciate your comments once you look over the document so we can have a polished version for the Board meeting in two weeks.

Thank you for your efforts!

Kind Regards,


Of course, Anne should double-check to make sure she has attached ‘Annual Report Draft 2’ before sending. It is explicitly stated in the subject line and the text of the email why the attachment is there and what Bill is being asked to do with it. Always be crystal clear when emailing attachments!

Check out Part III next week, in order to learn how to deal with apologies, invitations, gratitude, and proper closing for a message.

Email writing is an essential skill in any workplace. Yet, the thought of writing an email in English, no matter the subject, can be intimidating for many non-native speakers. Fear not! With some forethought and practice, any professional can become confident to overcome common email mishaps and can soon have English email writing become a normal part of their work routine.

Let’s consider the following basic points for setting up a proper email.

1 - Think ahead of time about the purpose of your message

What is your intent? Who is it addressed to? Is this person a superior, a co-worker, or a friend? This will influence the tone of your message.

2 - Write a strong subject line

This is essential so it will catch the reader’s attention. However, it should be short (just a few words) and should match the content of your message.

3 - Choose the correct salutation

A proper greeting for almost any close colleague is:

"Dear (first name)" The greeting "Hello (first name)" is very informal and should only be used between friends.

Of course, if your relationship is with a client or a coworker is more formal, it is more appropriate to write:

"Mr. (last name)" for men or "Ms./Mrs. (last name)" for women.

If the person you are writing to has a title:

"Dear Dr. (last name)" or "Dear Professor (last name)" is the proper salutation, with no need for Mr./Ms./Mrs. to follow it.

IMPORTANT: Regarding women, ‘Mrs.’ is a salutation only used for married women. So, if you are unsure of the marriage status of your message recipient, it is appropriate to use ‘Ms.’ instead.

Lastly, if you do not know personally the person you are addressing in the email, then options for appropriate salutations are:

"Dear Sir/ Dear Madam" – Very formal, for distinguished people "Dear Mr. (last name)/Ms. (last name)" – As above, politely formal and works in all situations "To Whom It May Concern" - Only used if the recipient is totally unknown. It is not recommended to use this greeting in most cases.

4 - Break the ice

In Western cultures, it’s customary to start off with one line of small talk to open up the message instead of directly asking for what you want. For example, if you are sending a message on a Monday, it may be nice to start the email by saying:

"I hope you had a nice weekend." On any other day, a simple or "I hope you are having a nice week" would suffice.

5 - Get down to business

Once you’ve opened up with a friendly line, then get to your purpose. Remember to try and keep it short and to the point, as people don’t like to spend a lot of time reading long messages.

If you must write a longer email, remember to use the “inverted pyramid” writing style, where you say what’s most import in the first paragraph, then follow with smaller, supporting details.

Be sure to read Part II next week, in order to learn how to properly close an English email message, as well as other email etiquette for business situations.

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