In this Issue
Letters to the Editor
Write to Us
Spread the Word
Back Issues

Language Interference
False Friends and the Varieties of English

Are England and America really divided by the same language?

Focus on Language

Business English: Writing e-mails
UK version  US version

New word of the month
Mailbomb, virus, worm, Trojan horse, nastygram, mockingbird.
Find out what these words have in common.

Top Tips for the CD-ROM
Use SoundSearch to learn about homophones


Business English: E-mail
by Howard Middle


Communicating with people in a business context often requires a more formal style than when writing to friends and family. In the 21st century, the most common form of communication between colleagues is almost certainly e-mail. Because e-mails are designed for speed, they usually avoid the formal expressions used in letters, relying more heavily on the use of incomplete sentences and abbreviations.

Below you can find an example e-mail and notes explaining its features. Some of the notes also include some useful set phrases often used in e-mails.



(1) Hi David

(2) Sorry for the delay in replying — it’s hectic here today.

(3) Just to confirm — we’ve got 50 delegates going to the conference.

(4) Pls book rooms B4 end of today. Numbers as follows: 23 twin rooms, 4 singles. I’ll need confirmation and reservation nos asap — can you e-mail me later?

(5) Attached is all the info you need.

(6) Best
(7) Jane


1 You do not need to begin with a formal greeting. Dear David, David, or even just Hi are all acceptable ways of starting an e-mail.


2 It is very easy to sound abrupt in an e-mail, so a short greeting can help to lighten the tone.


3 E-mails are usually written at speed, so people very often do not write in complete or grammatically correct sentences.


4 Abbreviations are also often used to save time. Pls is short for "please", B4 means "before", and asap means "as soon as possible".


5 People often send documents or pictures with the e-mail: these are known as attachments.


6 End your e-mail with something short like Best (short for Best Wishes), Regards, or Yours if you are writing to someone you do not know well.


7 People usually sign e-mails with their first name.