Email vocabulary ESL

This guide is designed to help your student write clear and professional emails. It covers different types of business emails such as responding to clients, following up from meetings, declining offers, scheduling, cancelling, giving bad news and politely saying no.

At the end there is also a worksheet you can give your student for homework covering common writing mistakes to test their knowledge in their own time.

Writing emails

Greetings

Dear + first name / Dear Mr, Ms, Mrs, Miss + surname.

Hi + name (informal)


Introducing your subject

I hope this email finds you well. (Then introduce subject.)

Or, get to the subject immediately (many people prefer this option).

I am writing to + subject.

I am contacting you + subject.

Regarding, concerning + subject (this is formal language and usually used after the phrase ‘I am writing.’)

‘I am writing to you regarding the maintenance contract we have with your firm.’


Responding to an email

Thank you for your email/ thank you for contacting us.

Plus:

  • Your action: (e.g. ‘We are looking into your case now…’)  
  • To answer your question…
  • In response, we would like to/we can offer you…

‘Thank you for your email. To answer your question, we can give you a refund on your purchase as long as you still have the receipt.’


Attachments

Please find attached + document.

‘Please find attached the document you requested.’


Scheduling

I am writing to schedule a day for the meeting.

I am writing to ask when you would be available to meet.


Cancelling

To reschedule

Due to unforeseen circumstances – something has interrupted a plan.

‘Due to unforeseen circumstances we have had to cancel the meeting.’

In light of – a formal phrase to say ‘because of.’

‘In light of staff illness, we will be unable to attend the presentation on Monday.’


Follow up emails after a conference call or meeting

It was a pleasure to meet you.

To follow up.

Do not to hesitate + infinitive.

To drop us a line – an informal way of saying ‘please write to us.’

To follow up on our meeting, please find attached detailed plans of our proposal. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to drop us a line.’


Proposals

To quote / to give a quote – the amount of money a job will cost a client.

‘The quote for this work is 7,000 euros. That includes tax.’

To propose / a proposal – the company’s proposed solution to a client’s problem.

‘I have discussed the issue with my colleagues and we propose to build a new software for your company which would…’

A scope of work – all the jobs in the proposal broken down into bullet points.

‘Please find attached the scope of work for this proposed project. You’ll find our quote for the work on the final page.’


Apologising and giving assurances

To be sorry.

Please be assured.

We can assure you.

To look into an issue or matter – to investigate.

‘Thank you for contacting us. We are sorry that you have had a bad experience with our airline. We are looking into the matter now. Please be assured that positive customer experience is our highest priority and we take this matter very seriously.’


Giving bad news

Regretfully, unfortunately…

‘Thank you for your email. Regretfully, there are no positions available at this time.’

To have considered…

‘Thank you for your interest in our company. We have considered your offer carefully, however…’


Politely saying ‘no’

To decline – a formal, polite way to say ‘no’ to invitations, proposals and offers.

‘Thank you for your quote for the work. Unfortunately we have to decline your offer.’

‘Un’ words are also a good way to say ‘no’ without using the word. These include:

To be unavailable.

‘Thank you for your email. Unfortunately, our CEO is unavailable for an interview in the foreseeable future. We thank you for our interest in our company.’

To be unable.

‘Thank you for your email. Unfortunately, we are unable to comply with your request at this time due to…’

To be unfeasible/ not feasible.

‘Thank you for contacting us. Please be assured that we are working to resolve your issue. However, it is not feasible to complete the work by the deadline you have proposed…’

To be unavoidable.

‘The delay was unavoidable due to…


Finishing an email.

To be in touch (shortly).

‘We’ll be in touch shortly to resolve this matter.’

To hope + infinitive.

‘We hope to hear back from you soon.’

To look forward to + gerund/noun.

‘We look forward to meeting you next week.’ ‘We look forward to hearing from you.’


Endings

Best wishes, Best regards, Best, Kind regards.

Note: Some students sign off with ‘regards.’ This is normally perceived as cold and should be avoided.

‘Yours sincerely’ is more for formal letters and not emails (but this depends on the context).


Punctuation

Commas

Commas should go after*:

Dear/ Hi + name of person,

The parting line (e.g. ‘We look forward to hearing from you’,)

The final goodbye (e.g. ‘Best regards’,).

Capitalisation

The word on the next line after the greeting and parting comma is always capitalised.

For example:

Dear John,

Concerning your last email…

We’ll be in touch,

Best regards,

Tim

NOTE: *This is important to teach as not all European countries have this system.

Homework

Ask your student to write a 150 word email on one of the following subjects.

  1. A complaint letter to an airline.
  2. An apology letter referencing a typical client problem at work.
  3. A follow up email after a meeting.
  4. A covering letter for a job interview.
  5. A letter where the student must politely say ‘no.’

Ask your student to attach the letter in the messages function using the clip icon. Next lesson go through the email together making corrections and suggestions.

For more email ideas, check out this amazing resource from MacMillan.


Common language mistakes in emails

Every day vs. everyday

 ‘Every day’ is an adverbial time marker which means the frequency in which you do something. For example:

‘Laura checks her emails every day.’

‘Everyday,’ on the other hand, is an adjective which means that something is common or used habitually. For example:

‘Traffic jams at rush hour are an everyday experience.’


It’s vs. its, you’re vs. your, and they’re vs. their

Many students confuse the contraction between the subject pronoun and ‘to be’ verb (it’s, you’re and they’re) and possessive adjectives (its, your, their).

How to fix it

If your student has doubts, ask them to say the word aloud while you’re writing it. Can it be separated into two words? For example: ‘They’re going for a picnic,’ can also be, ‘they are going for a picnic.’ If the answer is ‘yes,’ then it’s a contraction and needs an apostrophe.  If the answer is ‘no,’ then it’s probably the possessive adjective.


Capitals: The ‘common noun’ vs. ‘proper noun’ problem

There are two types of nouns in English: common nouns and proper nouns.

A common noun is the name of a word. It can be the name of a person, place or thing. These nouns are NOT capitalised, unless they start a sentence. For example: ‘man,’ ‘city’ and ‘car.’  

A proper noun is the particular name of a person, place or thing. These nouns ARE capitalised. For example: ‘Claudio,’ ‘Milan’ and ‘Mercedes.’  

The problem

However, sometimes a common noun is capitalised. This happens when a common noun is inserted into a document to avoid the repetition of the proper noun. You see this a lot in legal documents such as work contracts. For example:

‘This letter outlines your contract of employment with Telefonica. Your employment with the Company will commence on the 1st April 2019.’

Here the word ‘company’ has substituted the name ‘Telefonica’ and so it is capitalised.

However, this does not mean that the word ‘company’ is a proper noun and should always be capitalised. It is a common noun and you shouldn’t capitalise it in normal sentences.

For example: ‘There are 40 major oil and gas companies in the world.’

How to fix it

Ask your student to think: ‘does this word substitute the name of something? Or, does it describe something?’ If it substitutes a name then it is capitalised, if it is a description then it is not capitalised.

Finally, remember that the days of the week and the months of the year are proper nouns in English and so they are capitalised.

This is a difficult language point to get right. Ask your student to practice with our worksheet below.


‘It’ for companies and organisations

Businesses, organisations, entities and brands are always singular and should be referred to as ‘it’ and not ‘they.’ For example:

‘McDonald’s is a multinational company. It is expanding further into the Asian market next year.’


Dates and numbers

Dates

When writing dates you eliminate ‘the’ and ‘of’ and write:

‘31st January 2019’ (if you’re writing to someone in the UK, Australia or New Zealand). Or,

‘January 31st 2019’ (if you’re writing to someone in the US or Canada).

Numbers

Write large numbers with a comma and not a point

Remember: Large numbers are separated by a comma in English, not a point.

For example: 1,327,564 (not, 1.327.564)

AND: Fractions are written with a decimal point in English, not a comma.

For example: 4.3 and 6.7 (not, 4,3 and 6,7).


Homework: Test your knowledge

Ask your student to test their understanding of these writing rules with this gap-fill worksheet. Your student can correct themselves using the answer key on the final page.

PDF download email skills worksheet
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