Unless you live in a cave, writing emails is inevitable (if you do live in a cave, how are you reading an online blog?). With universities requiring a minimum of B1 level English, international jobs needing a common language and AirBnB hosts in France being unable to speak Spanish, good luck trying to live your life without at some point having to send online correspondence. Whatever your reason for writing an email in English, here are some things that you could bear in mind…
When starting and ending an email you have to consider formality (more on this later) and whether or not you know the name of the person.
Here is a handy reference table for the next time you write an email:
Say what you need to say…
This is more applicable to exam students but is also important for writing emails for work. If you are writing a reply, answer all the questions from the original email. If it is you sending the first email, ask what you need to ask and give the information you need to give. Every email should have a reason and purpose.
What do you need to do?
Tell David some places his friends could visit.
Tell him the best way to travel.
Imagine that you needed to use the smallest amount of words possible, what would the text look like?
Your friends could visit the Basilica and the museum. The best way to travel around Zaragoza is by bus.
See you later,
This is the absolute minimum that the reply email could be.
However, if you are doing an exam or you don’t want people to think that you are a robot, you will have to …
Follow email etiquette
Like a party or a work interview, there are certain things you are expected to say (and not to say). This is the same for the world of cyber-post; it would be very strange to receive an email without certain phrases and features. Here are some of those phrases you can use so that your emails look natural to other English speakers.
Thank you for your email.
My name is……….and I am a….. based in Zaragoza.
I am writing to you because….
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need any assistance
Looking forward to hearing from you…
Please find attached….
Great to hear from you!
Thanks for your email!
I just wanted to touch base on
Let me know if you need a hand.
Formal emails can use features such as: longer words, the passive (to sound impersonal) and inversions (Hardly ever do we …..). Informal emails can use things like: phrasal verbs, slang and contractions.
See this page for more ideas!
Spending five minutes before you start writing will help you enormously. Once you have decided what you are going to write, it is a lot easier to write it . This is especially true of writing in exams.
How do I plan?
To plan ideas, you can write a super-fast “notes” version of your email. This way, you know what you are going to say and you do not have to interrupt yourself whilst you write the real thing.
To give an example:
Here is the task from earlier.
An ideas plan would look like this:
Great to hear from you……etc. It’s fantastic that you are….There is so much to learn about…..
Places they could visit: Basilica, Museum…-why? The Basilica has so much history…..can go on a guided tour, an excellent place to learn about the city because…. Museum ……..interesting gives information on the history….
Travel around: bikes are dangerous and difficult to use…..streets are crowded….no cars…..no coaches….as they do not have them.
Looking forward to…..
If you are doing an exam, you could also quickly make a language/grammar checklist.
To do this, first think about what language feature you could use to show you can write a B2 informal email (or whatever level):
Then think of how you could use them specifically in this letter.
Contractions: what’s up? It’s fantastic that…., If you’d like…
Phrasal verbs: I could pick you up from the airport…check out the basilica
Conditionals: If you’d like, we could….If you want some history, we’ll,,,,etc,
Specific vocabulary: guided tour, sightseeing, souvenirs.
Then you just have to tick everything off as you write your letter.
You should always check an email before you send it, especially if you have written it in a second language. Once you have finished writing, read it back to yourself, and look for any common errors. These could be:
3rd person ‘s’ He runs. The dog needs food. Sheila does karate.
Tenses : was/were, did, will be, etc.
Adjectives before nouns (different to Spanish) Look at the red car.
Collocations: depends on, I recommend looking at, on the computer screen.
As well as grammar and vocabulary, look at your plan and check that everything you need to say is there.