Emails have replaced traditional letters as the number one way to communicate in the business world. There are many different opinions of what you should or shouldn’t write. Here are some of the most common expressions I often read and use.
If you don’t have a contact name, “Dear Sir or Madam,“ is the most common greeting. Dear can be used in formal or informal emails, either with the surname (e.g. “Dear Mr Smith,”) or the first name (e.g. “Dear John,“). It’s also OK to use hi with a person’s first name (e.g. “Hi John,“).
Although most Germans don’t feel comfortable using it, using only the person’s first name (e.g. “John,“) is not impolite.
Important: Mrs is used for married women and Miss for women who are not married. If you don’t know if a woman is married or not, there is a third option: Ms (e.g. “Dear Ms Smith,”).
Instead of getting straight to the point in the first line, you could try using “Thank you for your email.“ or “I hope you’re well.” to sound friendlier.
Topic of your email
There are many ways you can introduce your topic or answer questions. “Regarding” (e.g. “Regarding your question about last month’s invoice, …”) can be used in most business emails. If you want to sound less direct, “I just wanted to…“ (e.g. I just wanted to ask if you’ve heard anything about last month’s invoice?”) is a commonly used option when giving a reason for writing your email.
Good or bad news
Giving good news – “I am pleased to inform you that we have decided to offer you the position.” (formal) or “I’m happy to tell you that we’ve decided to offer you the job.” (less formal) is a lot nicer than giving someone bad news – “I’m afraid that we have decided to offer the position to another candidate.” (formal) or “I’m really sorry, but we’ve decided to offer the job to someone else.” (less formal).
Emails very often include attachments, which should generally be mentioned in the email: “Please find attached an updated version of the flyer in PDF format.” If you’d like to sound more relaxed, “I’ve attached a photo.” would also work.
Although this is often overlooked, it’s actually really important that the other person knows exactly what should happen next. “Please send a scanned copy of the contract by December 31.” would clearly communicate what you want and when you want it. In less formal situations, you could use something simple like “Please let me know as soon as you can.” If no further action is needed at this stage, common expressions include “I’ll contact you again when I have more information.”
Offering to help
This is considered both polite and good customer service. “Please feel free to contact me if you have any further questions.“ sounds more formal and “Please let me know if you have any questions.“ sounds more relaxed.
Ending your email
Look forward to is used in both formal and informal business emails. The present simple tense (e.g. “I look forward to hearing from you soon.”) sounds more formal than the present continuous tense (“Looking forward to seeing you at the meeting next week!”)
“Thank you in advance.“ is a great expression when you’re asking for someone’s help, especially when you don’t know the person who’s going to help you.
It’s totally OK to be friendly in less formal situations. “Have a nice weekend!“ would work in an email to a colleague on a Friday, for example.
Popular ways to sign off are “Kind regards“ and “Best regards“ (or just “Best“).
“Thanks“ is a little more informal but can still be used in business emails. If you get a lot of emails from the UK, you’ll also recognise “Cheers“ (which in this case means the same as thanks).
Which expressions do you use or read most often in emails?