It can be tricky enough learning English to a standard high enough to feel confident in a business environment, but adding the formalities of professional emails on top of this can make communication at work very confusing. You might have written something that you think is perfectly acceptable, but the recipient might interpret it as blunt or unfriendly. It can be difficult to convey tone of voice through online communication, and it’s twice as hard for non-native speakers to learn the ins and outs. There are a few things you can do to make sure that your emails are clear, concise and say exactly what you want them to say.
Plan out what you’re going to write
It’s important to plan all of your business emails. One mistake could mean you end up sending information to the wrong person, or writing something that doesn’t properly say what you want it to say. To make this easier you should try to put yourself in the mind of the recipient. Try focusing on your reader and what you want them to think, feel or do when they have read the email. Ask yourself; who are you writing to, what are they concerned about and what do they need to know?
It is essential to proofread your emails if you wish to make a good impression upon whomever is going to receive them. Make sure you keep an eye out for typos, spelling mistakes and any confusing sentences. To improve your proofreading, you should divide long emails into sections, and if possible, read the text out loud to catch any mistakes. You should also try to proofread your writing at least twice – once for sense and once for technical accuracy.
Avoid jargon and buzzwords
In order to make your communications as clear as possible, you should avoid using any buzzwords or technical jargon. Try to remember that not everyone has the same knowledge as you do, and by writing about technical concepts specific to your particular role, you can confuse others. Business buzzwords are also best avoided, these are often vague, and you are more likely to get your message across using simple language. Examples of these kind of buzzwords include phrases like ‘going forward’ and ‘synergy’. It is also best to keep business communications formal; so do not use slang or emoticons, this could be seen as unprofessional and inappropriate.
It is important to be direct in all of your writing; you want your reader to understand and pay attention to what you are trying to say. There are a few ways that you can improve your writing to make it more direct. You should address the reader directly, using ‘you’ where possible. Keep your sentences short and simple, with appropriate paragraph breaks – your reader will be more engaged with your writing if it is easy to understand and broken up into manageable parts.
Spelling and punctuation
If you received an email with spelling mistakes and incorrect punctuation, you probably wouldn’t have a great impression of the person that sent it. Therefore, it is vital to check your communications for these types of mistakes; there are electronic spellcheckers that will even do this for you, but do not overly rely on them, it is always best to double-check everything yourself. If spelling is not your strong point, take some time to research commonly misspelled words, and see how much difference it makes to improving the quality of your writing. Watch out for Americanised spellings of English words, American English spells quite a few words differently, and Canadian English is slightly different again. Check online or with a native-speaker if you are ever unsure of anything.
These are just a few things you can do to help improve the quality of your business communications at work. If you want a more thorough guide, you can check out The Language Gallery’s Business Communications elective, and see if it’s right for you.