If you do business in English, chances are high that you’re going to write an email at one point or another. Because we use a more formal tone with colleagues than we do with our friends, it’s important to know how to address people properly in an email by using business email language.
Below are some phrases you can use when writing an email in English at work or in professional business situations.
To Whom It May Concern
This phrase is used at the beginning of an email when you don’t know whom you’re addressing. If you need to write an email to a department at a company, but don’t know the exact person to address, use this phrase.
When you use To whom it may concern, your email will apply to whomever answers, whether they’re a man or a woman. This type of salutation is also expected in business emails.
If you know the name of the person you’re writing the business email to, use this formula: Dear + their title + their last name.
Use Dr. if the person you’re writing to is a doctor, Mr. if it’s a man, Mrs. if it’s a married woman, and Ms. if it’s an unmarried woman.
If you’re not sure if the woman you’re writing to is married or not, use Ms. instead of Mrs. Today, Ms. can also be used as a catchall for married and unmarried women.
(Note from Crystal: Though Erin is absolutely correct in her explanation of when the terms “Mrs.” and “Ms.” are used, I would personally choose to always use “Ms.” when addressing a woman over 18 years old, even if I know that the woman is married. Like the German generic “Frau” or Spanish “Señora”, “Ms.” formally addresses a woman in general, instead of recognizing her marital status.
I am writing in regards to…
This phrase can be used to start off the body of your business email. You can use this phrase in many situations, such as at the beginning of a job application, in response to a request, or when replying to an email.
Special Note: One big difference between English and German in writing informal or business emails is that in English, the first letter in the body of the email is capitalized. Make sure to keep that in mind if you write in these two languages!
Please See Attached / Attached Please Find
Do you have to attach a file to your email, whether it be a photo, a CV, or another necessary document? When you mention the attachment in the email, you can say Attached please find a copy of my… / the invoice from….
You can also stick the phrase Please see attached. at the end of your business email after your name to remind the recipient to open the file.
Wait! Did you add this phrase to your business email, but forgot to attach the file before sending the email?? Gmail has started recognizing this phrase and will now remind you to attach the file if you hit ‘send’ with no attachments! How cool is that?
Sincerely is the best go-to closing phrase to use in a formal email. It’s short, sweet, and to the point. Plus, it’s the right level of formality to use with someone you don’t know. It really suits any formal business situation.
Try these phrases in your next business email and see the response it gets. We’re sure it will be a positive one! Leave us a comment below for any questions about what phrase you should use.
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Ms. Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, yoga instructor, and is very grateful that Google catches when she has left off the attachment! It’s so embarrassing to have to write someone a second time…