How to write emails and messages in English

Here is some basic advice for writing correct messages and emails in English. For more information on writing letters and emails, see How to write better English.

Use standard expressions

For emails, you can start "Dear" (and the name of the person) and end "Best wishes" or "Best" and then your name on the next line.

Or you can omit the "Dear + name" and "Best wishes" ending, and finish just with your name.

In informal emails, you can write "Hi" (and the name of the person).

For messages, you can just write the name of the person without "Hi".

After the first greeting, you can use a standard expression to start the email:

"I'm writing to tell you / to ask you …"
"Just to let you know, …." (and then give the news)
"Can you / Could you …." (and then say what you want the other person to do)

For emails and messages, you can also write the information without a standard expression – especially if you know the other person well or they understand the situation.

For example:

Jane

Meeting tomorrow is at 10 am in Boardroom.

Dennis

Use simple grammar

Keep your sentences short and use a simple sentence structure:

Subject
Verb
Object
Manner
Place
Time

Examples:

Sara will get the 6pm train from London. Can you meet her at the station at 7pm?
(Sara – subject; will get – verb; the 6pm train from London – object)

We're currently doing some market research before the product launch in France. James (from the Marketing Dept) said you have a market report from last year. Could you send it to me please?
(We – subject; are doing – verb; some market research = object. James – subject; said – verb; you have a market report – object; from last year – time.)

In informal emails and messages you can write in note-form. This means you can write in abbreviations and you can omit grammar words such as personal pronouns, articles and prepositions.

Examples:

Thank you for your email = Thanks for the email
I'm just writing to ask you = Just writing to ask you
We haven't got much time before the product launch, so… = Not much time before product launch, so…

Some common abbreviations

asap = as soon as possible
am = morning
pm = afternoon
btw = by the way

Use good punctuation and layout

1. Make sure your emails (and messages) are easy to read and that the person can understand the information quickly. Some tips for doing this:

Avoid long paragraphs in emails. You can start a new line for each new point.

Hi John

Thanks for your email.

No news yet on product launch in France, but we expect to hear some time next week.

Sales and marketing meeting scheduled for Thursday next week, at 10 am. All European sales reps to attend.

See you then

Joe

2. You can also number points in messages.

Rob

Tina phoned this am.

1. Can you book Meridian Hotel in NY for two nights? Jul 6, 7.
2. Please get Marvin to send customer report asap.
3. Can you remind Bill to send over designs.

Thanks!
Sue

Punctuation

Here are some common errors to avoid.

1. The line after your greeting in an email starts with a capital letter:

Hi Lucy
Can you …. (not "can you…)

2. The personal pronoun I is capitalised. Don't write "i".

3. When you write the date, write it in full – day, month, year. For example, 11 February 2013 and not 11/2/13.

See also our page Improve your punctuation for more detailed explanation on full stops, commas, colons, apostrophes, and so on.


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