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Business English Guide Blog: Essential Skills Email Writing, Part III

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!

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