A reader of the newsletter asked me to write about this subject.
Contrary to what you might think, you don’t need to write complicated language for emails. The opposite is true. Many people receive hundreds of emails every day, and they need to understand quickly what you want. What makes an email easier to understand is to use correct spelling and make correct sentences.
Use Correct Spelling
Spelling: Some people are incredibly lazy and don’t check their spelling. If you’re not sure how to spell a word, check it in your (online) dictionary. Or check in Google translate. Nothing is easier now that we’re all writing electronically.
Making Correct Sentences
Most mistakes are made in the connecting words. Learning how to use “and,” “but,” “while,” “according to” and “on the other hand” are really basic skills that every email writer should know! You need to know in which situations you can use and, and not but. Etc. Why is this so important? Because the connectors make your sentences logical. And when they’re logical, they’re easier to understand for your reader.
So here are a few examples. Please study them carefully, and then do the exercise.
You use and to add information, or to combine two (parts of) a sentence that have something in common (= that are the same in something).
If the thing you are adding to the sentence is different from what you said in the first part of the sentence, don’t add “and.”
We’re happy to announce that Mandy and Russell accepted their new positions.
I’ll finish the report later this afternoon, and send it to you.
You can use but when there is a difference between what you said before, and the rest of your sentence.
Here are some examples:
The prototype that Cherry made was pretty good, but the prototype that Evan made was rejected by the client.
Sorry for taking such a long time getting back to you, but I was on vacation.
However means the same as but. But when you use however, you need to put a comma (,) after it.
Here are some examples:
Today is a national holiday. However, we’ve decided to keep our shop open.
We’ve received your documents in due order. There is still one thing missing, however.
Note: however is more formal than but, so you wouldn’t usually put however in an email that you write to friends. That would sound strange.
You can find more information about using “however” here.
While is used to describe two things that are happening at the same time. “While” means: at the same time when.
Here are some examples:
Danny will pass out brochures to the customers, while Trudie will be making registrations in the computer.
While our guests are having lunch, we will prepare our next lecture.
You can use “according to” to tell what someone said, or report what their opinion is. So according to means: in this person’s words.
According to Preeta, the accident was serious.
We may not have enough stock for the holiday season, according to the warehouse manager.
On the other hand
You use on the other hand to contrast two things. Contrasting means that the two things have to be different (like black contrasts with white).
You can’t use “on the other hand” for something that is pretty much the same as the first thing.
Their products aren’t the best quality. On the other hand, they give really good service.
I would like to learn another language fast. On the other hand, I don’t have the time to go to a month-long summer school.
Choose which sentence is the correct one. With correct is meant the sentence that uses the connecting word(s) in the right way.
For the answers, this is a gold package exercise.
1 Eric can’t wait for your new letter, while Tika is typing that email.
Eric can’t wait for your new letter, while Inez is more relaxed about it.
2 In answer to your question, here is our schedule and possible delivery times.
In answer to your question, here is our schedule while possible delivery times.
3 Hearing your lectures helped her professional skills, according to Dorothy.
According to the lecture, Dorothy’s professional skills got better.
4 If you need any more details, you can check them on my website and ask questions on my live chat.
If you need any more details, you can check them on my website but ask questions on my live chat.
5 I hope you are fine and that your children are well too.
I hope you are fine while your children are well too.
6 I’m writing about your ad that I saw in the Guardian but in the Times yesterday.
I’m writing about your ad that I saw in the Guardian and in the Times yesterday.
7 Your hotel promised that all meals were included. However, we later found out that they didn’t serve lunch.
Your hotel promised that all meals were included. However, we got three meals a day.
8 According to your ad, you require five years of experience.
According to your questions, we realized that you lack experience.
9 While we were pleasantly surprised that you delivered the products ahead of the deadline, we discovered a few issues with the order.
We were pleasantly surprised that you delivered the products ahead of the deadline, and we discovered a few issues with the order.
10 Could you send me some more information about the exhibition, and also its exact location?
Could you send me some more information about the exhibition, but also its exact location?