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Use English in emails and letters with style and accuracy

Formatting tips

Common phrases useful for e-mails

To indicate sequence or order

first, second etc.

at this point followed by
next, last, finally previously, subsequently after that
first of all and then nest, before, after
concurrently at this time meanwhile
To introduce an example
for example for instance e in this case
on this occasion to illustrate to demonstrate
this can be seen when/where . . . take the case of
To indicate time
immediately thereafter formerly
prior to previously finally
then soon during
at that time before, after
To logically divide an idea
firstly, secondly, thirdly Initially, subsequently, ultimately first, next, finally
To compare
in a different way/sense similarly likewise
whereas balanced against by comparison
similar to like, just like conversely
To contrast
in contrast on the other hand balanced against
however on the contrary unlike
a different view is differing from
To introduce an additional idea

in addition

also finally
moreover furthermore one can also say
and then further another
besides that nor
To introduce an opposite idea or show exception


on the other hand instead
whereas while in spite of
yet nevertheless but
despite even though but one could also say . . .
still in contrast
To give an example
for example in this case take the case of
to illustrate for instance to demonstrate
To summarise or conclude
in summary in conclusion in brief
as a result on the whole summing up
as shown ultimately therefore
consequently thus in other words
to conclude to summarise finally

Write a meaningful subject line.

Recipients scan the subject line in order to decide whether to open, forward, file, or trash a message. Remember -- your message is not the only one in your recipient's mailbox.

Keep the message focused and readable.

Often recipients only read partway through a long message, hit "reply" as soon as they have something to contribute, and forget to keep reading. This is part of human nature.

Use standard capitalization and spelling, especially when your message asks your recipient to do work for you.

Skip lines between paragraphs.

Identify yourself clearly.

When contacting someone cold, always include your name, occupation, and any other important identification information in the first few sentences.


If you are asking someone else to do work for you, take the time to make your message look professional .

While your spell checker won't catch every mistake, at the very least it will catch a few typos. If you are sending a message that will be read by someone higher up on the chain of command (a superior or professor, for instance), or if you're about to mass-mail dozens or thousands of people, take an extra minute or two before you hit "send". Show a draft to a close associate, in order to see whether it actually makes sense.

Distinguish between formal and informal situations. 

When you are writing to a friend or a close colleague, it is OK to use "smilies" :-) , abbreviations (IIRC for "if I recall correctly", LOL for "laughing out loud," etc.) and nonstandard punctuation and spelling (like that found in instant messaging or chat rooms). These linguistic shortcuts are generally signs of friendly intimacy, like sharing cold pizza with a family friend. If you tried to share that same cold pizza with a first date, or a visiting dignitary, you would give off the impression that you did not really care about the meeting. By the same token, don't use informal language when your reader expects a more formal approach. Always know the situation, and write accordingly.