Email Phrases: Getting the Tone Right

Adapting your message

It can be difficult to know what email phrases to use in your business emails. This depends on whom your audience is, and if the business situation is formal or informal.  You don’t want your emails to make a business partner uncomfortable, so it is important to use the correct email phrases at the correct times.  Using an email phrase that is too formal can make you seem stiff or cold, while using one that is too informal can make you seem presumptuous or arrogant.  Here are some good phrases to use in certain situations for both formal and informal writing.

Email phrases for formal business situations

  • Talking about the last contact:  I am writing in reference to your last email about…
  • Giving the reason for writing:  I am writing concerning…
  • Giving good news:  I am pleased to inform you that…
  • Giving bad news:  I’m afraid that…
  • Asking for something:  Could you please…
  • Sending an attachment:  Please find attached…
  • Offering help at the end of an email:  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.
  • Talking about the next contact:  I look forward to seeing you next week.

Email phrases for informal business situations

  • Talking about the last contact:  Thanks for your email.
  • Giving the reason for writing:  I’m just emailing to…
  • Giving good news:  I am pleased to say that…
  • Giving bad news:  Sorry, but…
  • Asking for something:  Can you just…
  • Sending an attachment:  I’ve attached…
  • Offering help at the end of an email:  If you’ve got any questions, feel free to ask.
  • Talking about the next contact:  See you next week.

Using good email phrases at the right time can help you build business relationships more effectively. Let us know of any other suggestions you might have in the comments area below.


Evaluating an Idea: Quick Email Phrases

What do you think?

Evaluating an idea without causing offense can be challenging at times. Often it is a colleague, client or your boss who wants to know what you think of an idea. Sometimes you think it’s great, sometimes you don’t, and sometimes you’re going to need to know more before you can respond. The first case is relatively easy – you can tell them it’s great. But what about the next two cases?

Here are some phrases which you could use either when writing an email in response to a written request, or when speaking to the person who has made the suggestion.

Phrases for evaluating an idea

1.  You think it’s a great idea

  • That sounds great!
  • What an amazing idea!
  • That’s a really good idea.

2.  You don’t think it’s such a great idea

  • I can’t help wondering how / if / whether /what….
  • It’s certainly worth considering.
  • What concerns me is…

3.  You want more time or information before reacting

  • I’d appreciate more information on / about…
  • I would really need to know..
  • Perhaps you could let me know..?

Example of an email when you are evaluating an idea

Hi Melissa
Thank you so much for putting your idea to me.
It‘s certainly worth considering. I can’t help wondering though, how this might affect the administrative staff. Before getting back to you, I would really need to know how much would actually be saved by implementing this change. Perhaps you could get back to me on that?
Best regards,

By using the suggestions above, you can acknowledge an idea without offending the person who came up with it. Let us know if you have any suggestions of other phrases or approaches when evaluating an idea in emails in the comments area below.

Reacting to Bad News: Tips for Email Phrases

Reacting to bad news

Reacting to bad news in a prompt, well-written way can convey a powerful message: not only are you concerned about your business relationships, you also care about how your clients and colleagues are doing personally, too. If a client cancels a meeting because something unfortunate has happened in their lives, take a moment to pass along your best wishes. This is a very simple process that can be accomplished with just a few phrases. The key is to make sure your email matches the seriousness of the situation. Here are some phrases that match situations you might encounter.

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Phrases for reacting to bad news

1.  That’s a pity. / That’s a shame. / That’s too bad.

We use these phrases for unfortunate, but small, incidents. For example, if someone can’t come to your  presentation.

2.  I’m sorry to hear that. 

Here we see a useful phrase: ‘I’m sorry to hear’. Some examples:

  • I’m sorry to hear you aren’t feeling well.
  • I’m sorry to hear you missed your flight.
  • I’m sorry to hear you didn’t get the job.
3.  I’m very sorry to hear that.

We use this phrase for serious events, such as a death in someone’s family.

Phrases referencing a positive view of the future when reacting to bad news

  • I hope you get well soon.
  • I hope you can catch another flight.
  • I hope you find an interesting position soon.

Phrases offering to help when reacting to bad news

These phrases can be used in the more serious situations listed in numbers 2 and 3 above.

  • If there’s anything I can do to help, just let me know.
  • If you need anything, please let me know.
  • If there is anything I can do to assist you in this difficult time, please let me know.

Example of a good way of reacting to bad news

Hi John,

Thanks for your email.
I’m sorry to hear you aren’t feeling well. I hope you get well soon.
If there’s anything I can do to help, just let me know.
Brigitte and the rest of the team send their best wishes.

Best regards,

Giving and getting bad news can be very difficult in business.  Hopefully, these email phrases can help. Let us know if you have any suggestions on other phrases or approaches to reacting to bad news in emails in the comments area below.


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Apology Emails: 3 Tools to Help

A good apology email goes a long way when canceling an appointment.  You ever get a message from someone declining a meeting in Outlook that had no apology or explanation in it?  I’m sure you have and, like me at times, wondered why that person couldn’t make it. Did you think it was rude or unprofessional? It may or may not be depending on the situation, but it could be perceived to be a bit rude by some people; so it’s important to send a quick apology email within your cancellation notification. It helps to be diplomatic and polite when doing so in English. Here are some quick tips to make your apology emails easy to write and effective.

3 Parts parts of an apology email

1. Apology
  • I’m sorry, but I can’t attend the meeting on Thursday.
  • I’m afraid that I can’t take part in the teleconference on Monday.
  • Unfortunately, I cannot meet you in Berlin on Tuesday.
2. Reason and additional information if necessary(rescheduling, requests, etc)
  • I have another meeting at this time I have to attend.  Could you please send me the minutes from the call?
  • I will be out of the office on a business trip.  Could we please reschedule for the following week?
  • I will be on vacation later this week.  Can we push back the call to next week?
3. Polite closing
  • Thank you for understanding.  I hope to see you next week.
  • Thanks for understanding.  See you next week.
  • I hope this doesn’t cause any inconvenience.  Have a good rest of the week.

Example of a good apology email

I’m sorry, but I can’t take part in the telecon on Tuesday the 14th.  I have to go to a meeting in Munich that day.  Could we reschedule the call for Thursday the 16th at the same time? 
Thanks for understanding and let me know what would work best for you. Have a good day.

Following the structure and using the phrases above should allow you to avoid confusing, or possibly offending, clients or colleagues.  Let us know what good emails have worked for you in the comments area below.

Finance Emails: Quick Tips for Clarity

Writing clear finance emails can be a challenge at times

Because the email was confusing, the wrong cost center was used; because the wrong cost center was used, the payment was late; because payment was late, penalties were charged; because penalties were charged, the contract went over budget; because the contract went over budget, the client was unhappy; because the client was unhappy, they gave their next contract to a competitor….. and all because of a confusing email.

Example situations of finance emails

You’re covering for a colleague who is on holiday for three weeks. In the middle of the month you get the following email from one of the suppliers they deal with:

“Would you mind making payment by the end of the month? If not, there’s a chance that penalties might be applied which could possibly cause a bit of delay to delivery of goods. Would it be possible for you to use the usual cost center? That would be great.”

No, you don’t mind, but “might”? “Chance”? Will there be penalties or not? Is the end of the month the last working day or the last calendar day? How long is “a bit of a delay”?  Yes, you can use “the usual cost center,” but what is it?
Two days ago, at month closing, I got a frantic call from one of the finance teams I train. They’d received an email that would have made Ebenezer Scrooge scratch his head. They had one simple question — what did this person want and when?

Tips for making your finance emails clearer

There are many words and phrases used in English to soften a message. However, in some situations it’s essential that politeness doesn’t compromise clarity. Email communication about finance is exactly one of those situations.
The most important point of your email is the action you want taken. For clear finance emails, my tips are:

  • Limit your requesting language to “please” at the start of the first sentence
  • Avoid the words “quite,” “some,” “a bit,” “a chance,” “possibly”
  • If there’s a deadline, give the date or time
  • If there’s important information, for example a cost center number, write it in the email. That way there will be no confusion. You also don’t know if the person you’re writing to will deal with the email
  • Save any messages of thanks to the sign off. A simple “thanks in advance” is enough

Let us know if you have any advice for finance emails in the comments area below.  For more information on how to improve your writing at work, click here.

Writing Request Emails: 3 Solutions to Help

Writing request emails can be very tricky at times, especially depending on the person to whom you are writing.  Many of us work in large, international companies and communicate with colleagues from all over the world.  We all depend on others for information that we need to do our job effectively and on time.  It can be difficult to ask someone for something that is very important to you, but might not be important to them.  It’s important to be careful how you request things in English, as some phrases could seem rude.  Here are a few things to keep in mind when writing request emails:

3 reasons to avoid being direct when writing request emails

1. Damaged relationships.  Your directness could be taken personally.  This could lead to a damaged relationship between colleagues.
2. Increased costs.  If you think someone is being rude to you, you are less likely to help them quickly, if at all.  This could slow down the speed of information exchange, delaying projects and thus increasing costs.
3. Decreased Quality.  If someone reads a direct email and gets offended, it could cause the recipient to not focus on the important topic of the email and not get you the exact information you need.  Then you will have to ask at least one other time for more information, which leads to valuable time being wasted.

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3 solutions to use for more polite emails

1. Begin your email politely with phrases such as:

“I hope all is well today.
Thanks for the email and information.” (responding to an email)
I hope everything went well with the meeting last week.” (referencing a known event)

2. When requesting something, use the following phrases:

“Could you please send me the _______?  It would really help me finish the ____.
I would appreciate it if you could send me the ________.  This information will allow me to _______.
Would you be so kind as to send me the _____?  It is important that I have it by Wednesday in order to ______.”

3. End your email using a polite close with a sentence like:

“Thanks for your time and have a good day.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.” 
Thanks for your assistance and enjoy the rest of your day.”

3 outcomes to help your business when writing request emails

1. Improve business relationships.  You improve rapport with the other person, which will lead to smoother and more comfortable interaction going forward.  People like to help those who are polite to them.
2. Receive information faster.  You will get the information you need in a timelier manner, which will help you keep your project deadlines and avoid unnecessary delays and costs.
3. Ensure quality and save time.  People like to do a good job for those who they feel respect them.  They will make sure to take the extra time upfront to get you what you need.  This then avoids having to chase the person with multiple follow-up emails if they send you incomplete information the first time.

Taking a few extra seconds each email can help you build relationships, save time, and eventually money as well.  Why not start improving your communication and productivity when writing request emails?  Click  here for more information on how you can improve your writing at work.  Let us know of any other tips you might have to share in the comment areas below.

Motivating People: Using Emails Within a Virtual Environment

Motivating people isn’t easy no matter what position you hold in the company. There is an old Japanese proverb which says ‘the bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists.’

A common mistake

I was reminded of this recently when working with a client who was responsible for communicating a company-wide change. He needed colleagues in three different global locations to log in to an existing system and perform a task before the system could be replaced with a different, better tool.  It would take them 5 minutes. The most efficient way to communicate this request? Email of course. Easy he thought….wrong I’m afraid.
The first email he sent was a masterpiece of clarity and politeness. It laid out beautifully what was changing and how. The instructions were clear and easily understandable, (even when put through an online translator tool and back. Trust me, he tested that). There were six weeks until the deadline for the switch to the new tool, plenty of time.

The countdown began….
Four weeks before the deadline and two reminder emails later – only 54% of colleagues had carried out the request….
Three weeks before and another reminder, 61%….
Two weeks before and another reminder about the reminders, 69%….
One week before the deadline, another two slightly less polite but very clear reminders and still only 82% of his colleagues had carried out the request.
Why weren’t his colleagues more motivated to make the change? There was time for one last email, and this is when he came and saw me.
‘What’s wrong with my English?’ he asked me. ‘Nothing’ I said. ‘You’ve told them what will happen, you’ve simplified the technical language so even I can understand it and your instructions are clearer than those for an IKEA flat pack’. ‘So why are they so reluctant to make the change?’ he asked. ‘Simple’ I said. ‘They’re made of oak, and you want them to be bamboo.’

Realizing what your message should say

Before he thought I’d completely lost it, I told him the proverb and explained that at the moment, his colleagues were the oak trees. They knew how the old system worked and didn’t want to change to the unknown. If they were going to be like the stronger bamboo, they needed to know why they should bend. ‘That’s simple’ he said. ‘The old tool often asked you to repeat information and it could take a long time to enter data. The new tool only asks for information once and is far more accurate. Their life will be much easier. It will all be much quicker which will make their customers happy too.’
Great, that should make everyone happy, but where did it say all this in the original email? It didn’t, and there was the root of the problem, (or oak tree).
Normally, when communicating a change via email or group media, the biggest concern is making sure the ‘what’ and ‘how’ is explained as clearly as possible so people understand what they must do. It’s easy to lose focus of the motivational side, the ‘why’.

Getting results with your emails

It doesn’t matter how polite your request is, if people can’t relate it to themselves they will resist. To avoid this, try following these five simple steps:

  1. Explain what the change is
  2. Explain why it makes sense
  3. Explain why they should care about the change, (what’s in it for them)
  4. Explain how the change is going to happen
  5. Explain what you need them to do and when

Of course, these can be applied to any situation where you’re asking people to make a change, whether it’s by email or face to face; to 1,100 or 10,000 people.
By the way, the deadline was met, the new tool was launched and it has proved a success. I’m not so sure my client would be so ‘Zen’ as to say he’s now surrounded by a forest of bamboo trees, but I do know he didn’t have to send 12 reminders when he next asked people to do something.

Click here for more information on to work effectively in virtual teams.  Also, let us know in the comments areas below if you have had any similar situation in your job, and what worked for you.

Writing Emails: 20 phrases for closing an email

A common problem we hear is how writing emails in English can cost just too much time. One solution that works for many people is to begin building a “toolbox” of useful phrases.  It’s a simple idea– you just start keeping a list of common and useful expression, perhaps on your desktop or in a notebook next to your keyboard?  There’s nothing wrong with reusing some standard phrases if it helps save you time and communicate clearly. You probably already have 2 or 3 sentences you reuse again and again.

Writing emails that people read: Free eBook download

20 expressions for closing an email

Sometimes it’s difficult to find the right tone. Should the closing be formal, or informal? To help you find the right words when you need them here are 20 great expressions for closing an email.  As you read through them ask yourself two simple questions:

  1. When would I use this?
  2. When will I use this?

Expressions for thanking

  1. Thank you for your help. / time / assistance / support
  2. I really appreciate the help. / time / assistance / support you’ve given me.
  3. Thank you once more for your help in this matter.

Expressions with a future focus

  1. I look forward to hearing from you soon / meeting you next Tuesday.
  2. I look forward to seeing you soon.
  3. I’m looking forward to your reply.
  4. We hope that we may continue to rely on your valued custom.
  5. We look forward to a successful working relationship in the future.
  6. Please advise as necessary.
  7. I would appreciate your immediate attention to this matter.

Expressions for showing them you want to help

  1. If I can be of assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.
  2. If you require any further information, feel free to contact me.
  3. If you require any further information, let me know.
  4. Please feel free to contact me if you need any further information.
  5. Please let me know if you have any questions.
  6. I hope the above is useful to you.
  7. Should you need any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me.
  8. Please contact me if there are any problems.
  9. Let me know if you need anything else
  10. Drop me a line if I can do anything else for you.

You can check out more ways to improve your writing at work here.  Don’t hesitate to comment below if you have any questions or additional phrases you’ve used that work.


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Writing Emails: Giving Bad News

When giving bad news in an email, it’s extremely important to communicate ideas clearly and respectfully. In the email below, Carl Lane has been forced to give his colleagues some very bad news. Mr Lane does some things well in this email, but there are also some things he can improve. Read the email, and then read our tips for giving bad news in written form.

Sample email:

Dear colleagues,

As manager of the TURN project since 2008, it has been my pleasure to share in your success and watch the development of the project from the very beginning. All of us have worked hard and shared in TURN’s success. Now, I am faced with the most difficult task I have had as manager of this project. We received this news one month ago, but wanted to wait until we felt the time was right to deliver it.

I am very sorry to inform you that the project has been canceled effective July 1st, 2013. As of then, all project positions, including assistant and secretarial, are terminated.

There are many factors involved with the cancellation of our project: our failure to secure the PX19 contract, the recent 10% increase in material cost and a 30% drop in Sales were all involved. Every employee of the company knew these developments were negative in terms of our bottom line, a fact that the Board communicated via company-wide email in December, 2012. Despite these difficult circumstances, every member of our team worked diligently to help our project succeed.

I would like to thank you for your hard work over these past five years. If you have any questions regarding this very unfortunate news, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Carl Lane

Writing emails that people read: Free eBook downloadPositive points to use in your emails:

•    He writes respectfully (but not too formally). Employees should always treat each other with respect, but at a difficult time like this, it’s especially important for the team to know that their work was appreciated. It’s also important to use the correct level of formality. Too formal and you can sound rude. Not formal enough and it can seem like you’re not taking the situation seriously enough.
•    He states the reasons for the cancellation. This is major news, and the employees deserve to know the causes for the change. It should never be left to the employees to speculate about what happened.
•    He mentions written records of past performance. Mr Lane mentions the memo written by the Board in December. Even though they didn’t save the project in the end, it’s important for employees to know management was aware of the problem and working to solve it.

Things to avoid or do better in your emails:

•    He doesn’t address other people affected by the news. Mr Lane says that employee positions are canceled, but he doesn’t mention any of the other people who might be affected by the cancellation. This could include clients and investors.
•    He doesn’t mention anything positive. The news is bad and there is no hint of a future for the members of the project. Is the company possibly looking for other investors or is there a chance the project could be saved? Employees might be confused by this lack of mention of the future.
•    He didn’t deliver the news immediately. Unfortunately, Mr Lane waited to deliver the news. Perhaps the company wanted to see if the situation would improve, but the employees deserved to be informed about the situation.

Giving bad news is never easy, but by keeping the above guidelines in mind, your bad news letter can be written in an effective, respectful way. For more tips on this sensitive subject, please check out this link. Do you have something to add to this post? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.


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Virtual Teams: The Importance of Saying Thank You in Emails

When I was a kid I used to love Christmas and birthdays and all the presents that came with them. The part I hated was the thank you letters my parents made me write afterwards. Of course I didn’t appreciate how necessary they were at the time,  after all I’d said thanks after tearing off all the paper, hadn’t I? But learning to show appreciation and gratitude is probably one of the best lessons parents can teach. I may not have been grateful then, but I definitely am now.

Now, working in virtual teams, I find myself offended when someone doesn’t say thank you. You answer their email, do something for them, and somehow the conversation isn’t closed with a simple thank you.

It is really only a few words, how much can it hurt to write back a couple of words to someone who has helped? In the virtual setting the normal face-to-face office environment is missing.  We therefore need to make sure that we make up for that.  So, just write a simple thank you mail. It only takes a minute and, if you use some of the phrases below, it might only take a few seconds. It will though, dramatically improve the reader’s feelings toward you– and they might be that much happier to help next time.

Phrases for saying thank you:

The phrases here are ordered according to the level of formality or the importance of what they did. Use a phrase, and add a sentence or two to personalize the message – it really doesn’t need to be long.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude for…VTchecklists

I am very grateful for …

I really appreciate ……

Thank you so much!

Thanks for your … (time, contribution, effort, etc.)


An example thank you email:

Hi Karen,

Thanks so much for helping me out this week with the mini-staffing crisis. You really helped the team and I particularly appreciated your flexibility and eagerness to try out something new.

Thanks again,


Showing considerateness is an important part of working in virtual teams. Let us know if you have any other suggestions in the comments area below.


Writing clear emails: Asking somebody to do something

How many of your emails are asking somebody to do something?  And do you spend too much time thinking about exactly what to write and how to structure your email?  Then read on and learn how to save time while writing clear emails.
So many of the emails we write are for a handful of simple reasons, and by relying on a model you can avoid wasting time thinking how to start, what to write and how to structure your email.  A classic example of a common email is writing to somebody because we want them to do something for us.  In this situation the RAP model is great.

RAP stands for:

  • Reference – Introduce why you are writing.
  • Action – Tell them what you need them to do.
  • Polite close – Thank them and say goodbye.

Here’s a simple example

Dear Mr. Breuer,

I am writing to you about our meeting on Thursday. (Reference). Please could you send me the latest version of the agenda before the end of the day? (Action)

Thanks in advance for your help. (Polite Close)

Best regards


Writing emails that people read: Free eBook downloadAnd if you want to ask somebody to do something, explaining the reason why always makes the email even more effective.

Dear Mr. Breuer

I am writing to you about our meeting on Thursday. (Reference). Please could you send me the latest version of the agenda before the end of the day? This will help us to make sure everything is prepared in advance.(Action)

Thanks in advance for your help. (Polite Close)

Best regards


10 helpful phrases to get you started with your first RAP email


  • With reference to…
  • Referring to…
  • I am writing to…
  • I am writing in response to…
  • In response to your inquiry…

Polite Close

  • Thank you for your assistance.
  • Thank you in advance for your help.
  • I look forward to hearing from you soon.
  • Please let me know if you have any questions.
  • Please feel free to contact me if you need any further information.


Why not practice below, and we’ll give you some feedback?


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Out of Office Message: Quick Tips 1

During a recent holiday period, I saw a lot of English out of office replies from non-native speakers. What intrigues me is the fact that no two are the same. There is nothing wrong with this. After all, why should we all be identical? But really, how many ways of saying the same thing are there? In English, it would seem, there are fewer ways of putting our out of office reply together than there might be in other languages. So, here are some guidelines and some phrases to help you with your out of office message:

What might you want the reply to do?

  • Thank / apologize
  • Provide dates when you are not here / when you will be back
  • State who is standing in (covering) for you (plus contact information)
  • Say whether the mail will (or will not) be automatically forwarded to this stand-in (cover)
  • Say whether you will have access to your e-mails?
  • Say you’ll get in touch when you return

I feel that the message should do most of the functions here, but you may want to add to the list or dispute whether some of the information is really necessary.

For each of the functions above, here are a selection of phrases for you to choose from. Then ideally, all you should have to do is fill in the gaps with the relevant information.

Writing emails that people read: Free eBook download
Thank / apologize

  • Thank you for your e-mail.
  • Unfortunately, I am out of the office …….
  • I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Dates when you are not here / when you will be back

  • I am currently out of the office. I will be back on May 7th, 2013.
  • I am currently on vacation / holiday and will be returning on May 7th, 2013.

Who is standing in for you (plus contact information)

  • In urgent cases, please contact Mr. ……….. on +49 711 811 4321
  • In urgent cases, please contact me on my mobile +49 173456789
  • Mr. Smith ( will be standing in for me.  He can be contacted on +49 711 811 4321
  • For matters relating to ………., please contact Mr. Smith….. For all other matters, please contact Mr. Jones on…..
  • If you have additional questions in the meantime please don’t hesitate to contact Mr. Jones on ….

Will (or won’t) the mail be automatically forwarded to this stand-in

  • Your e-mails will not be automatically forwarded.
  • Your e-mails will be automatically forwarded to Mr. Smith.

Will you have access to your e-mails?

  • I will have occasional access to my e-mails during this time.
  • I will not have access to my e-mails during this time.

Say you’ll get in touch when you return

  • I will contact you when I return.
  • I will reply to your e-mails when I return to the office.

The phrases above can be used in any order you feel is appropriate.

An example:

  • Thank you for your email. Unfortunately, I am not currently in the office. I will though be back on May 7th and will be able to respond when I return. In urgent cases, please contact Ms Cheng.


Why not review your out of office reply? If you post it in the comments box below, we’ll get back to you with feedback.