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How to write E-mail

On this page: E-mail Guidelines | Activity

This page is to help you write good e-mail messages.

Read the guidelines below, then do the activity.

Comprehension Rating Form

E-mail Guidelines

E-mail: Inbox

To:  All members of staff 
From:  Jennifer Ranford <j.ranford@firm.com>  
Subject:  E-mail Writing Guidelines 
    Please note and follow the guidelines below concerning the writing of company e-mail messages.
  1. Subjects
    Give the message a subject/title. E-mail messages without a subject may not be opened because of a fear of viruses and especially note that it is very easy to forget to type this important information.
  2. Subject contents
    Keep the subject short and clear but avoid such headings as:
    ‘Good News’, ‘Hello’, ‘Message from Mary’. These headings are common in messages containing viruses. Short but specific headings are needed,
    e.g. Order No. 2348X
    Delayed Shipment
    Laboratory Equipment Order
  3. Greetings
    Start the message with a greeting so as to help create a friendly but business-like tone. The choice of using the other name versus the surname will depend on who you are writing to. If you have communicated with the receiver previously and he/she is at a similar level to you, then the use of the other name would be appropriate. If the receiver is more senior to you, or if you are in doubt, it would be safer (particularly in the first communication) to use the person’s surname/family name together with a title,
    e.g. Dear Mr Smithson, Dear Ms Stringer.

    It is also becoming quite common to write the greeting without a comma,
    e.g. Dear Miss Lawson
    e.g. Dear KK
  4. Purpose
    Start with a clear indication of what the message is about in the first paragraph.
    Give full details in the following paragraph(s).
    Make sure that the final paragraph indicates what should happen next.
    e.g. I will send a messenger to your office on Tuesday morning to collect the faulty goods.
    e.g. Please let me have your order by the beginning of the month.
  5. Action
    Any action that you want the reader to do should be clearly described, using politeness phrases. Subordinates should use expressions such as 'Could you...' or ' I would be grateful if...'. Superior staff should also use polite phrases, for example, 'Please...'.
  6. Attachments
    Make sure you refer, in the main message, to any attachments you are adding and of course make extra sure that you remember to include the attachment(s). As attachments can transmit viruses, try not to use them, unless you are sending complicated documents. Copy-and-paste text-only contents into the body of the e-mail. If you use an attachment, make sure the file name describes the content, and is not too general; e.g. 'message.doc' is bad, but 'QA Report is good.
  7. Endings
    End the message in a polite way. Common endings are:
    Yours sincerely, Best regards, Best wishes, Regards,
    If you did not put a comma after the greeting at the beginning of the message, then do not put a comma after the ending either,
    e.g. Best wishes
    e.g. Regards
  8. Names
    Include your name at the end of the message. It is most annoying to receive an email which does not include the name of the sender. The problem is that often the email address of the sender does not indicate exactly who it is from, e.g. 0385915d@polyu.edu.hk

Please follow these guidelines with all e-mail messages that you send.

Kind regards
Jennifer Ranford
Human Resources Manager


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E-mail: Compose
To:  Jennifer Ranford <j.ranford@firm.com>  

Thank you for your message about how to write e-mails. As I am a new member of staff, it is very helpful to know our company style.

I wonder if you could help me with one aspect of e-mails: English names.

I am confused about short forms of English names. Some staff call me 'Bill'. I know, for example, that 'Jen' and 'Jenny' are short for 'Jennifer'. I include a list of names that I am not sure about.

Thank you.




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