By Paola Pascual on Jun 30, 2021 1:43:15 PM
For most of us, it is very easy to get lost and end up writing a long, complicated email. In this article, we will share very easy tricks to make sure your emails are concise, short, and clear. But first, let's start with the basics!
Basic structure of an email
In business English, it is very common to start with a greeting ('Hi Eve,) and a friendly opening ('I hope you are well.'). Then, you can state the reason for your email ('I am writing to you with regards to...'), and mention attachments if you added any. It is also polite to offer help ('If you have any questions, please let me know'), and add a closing line ('Looking forward to...'). Before you finish your email, add a friendly goodbye ('All the best'), and your signature ('Tony'). You can find lots of helpful email phrases here: 150+ Useful Email Phrases That Will Make Your Life Easier
Although the structure is not complicated, many English learners (and native-English speakers!) find it difficult to keep their emails concise, short, and clear. The next two sections will help you exactly with that. First, apply the House Technique to structure your emails, and then make sure your sentences are concise with the three tips below.
How to structure your emails with the House Technique
It is not always easy to find the right balance between an email that is long and complicated and an email that is too short. To find that sweet spot, build your emails how you would build a house:
- Start with the walls (the reason why you’re writing and the call to action or next steps)
- Then add the furniture (supporting information)
- And then add the decoration (formalities and niceties).
It is very tempting to start the email the other way round - first the formalities, then all sorts of supporting information, and lastly the question we want to ask our reader. However, there is a major problem with this - we often forget the most important part. Plus, your emails will end up being much longer than desired (and your readers might miss the point).
House Technique | Talaera
Check out this example:
Hi Max, I hope this email is finding you well. In light of the fact that a few of our employees made a request on whether we could provide them with extra training budget since they have more time now that they are working from home, I am attaching a list with my recommendations of some of the best online courses I found and that they can choose from. There is the possibility that your team members do not like any of the courses we suggest. In such event, please ask them to make a suggestion with their preferred training. Please send them the list I attached and let them know that they need to make a decision by the end of the month in order for us to send it to the finance department and get their approval on time. I want to thank you for your great help in this situation. I hope you and your family are well, and that you have a nice day.
The email above is grammatically correct, but the structure is not very clear and you might have to read it a few times before you understand the main point.
And now compare it to the following example, where we used the HOUSE technique:
With the House Technique, emails look more structured and clear:
I hope you’re well.
Could we have a more in-depth discussion to talk about the changes in the HR department due to Covid-19? I am available on Monday from 10 am to 3 pm.
There are a few things I wanted to talk about:
– How are we dealing with company culture
– Options to work from the office
– How we are adapting our quarter OKRs
Please let me know what time works best for you.
Write shorter emails with these concise writing tips
Apart from having a structured email, you can also apply these concise writing tips to make sure that your sentences are short, clear, and to the point: one word better than three, actions better than nouns, and active voice better than passive.
1. One word better than three
Whenever possible, use one word instead of three. Look at the examples below. The versions on the right express exactly the same meaning with just one word.
- There is the possibility that → might
- In light of the fact → because / since
- In reference to → about
- In view of the fact that → considering
- With the exception of → except
- In the event of → if
- [Wordy] In light of the fact that we are all working from home, there is the possibility that we have to do the next event online.
- [Concise] Since we are all working from home, we might do our next event online.
2. Actions better than nouns
Verbs (or actions) will make your writing shorter and more concise. Whenever possible, drop the nouns and use verbs to express your ideas.
- Put under consideration → consider
- Give a decision → decide
- Conduct an interview → interview
- It is the opinion of → think
- [Wordy] It is the opinion of the board that we should conduct surveys with our clients and put their proposals under consideration.
- [Concise] The board thinks that we should survey our clients and consider their proposals.
3. Active voice better than passive
If you use passive voice, your sentences will tend to be longer and more complicated. Use active voice to add accountability and make your message more clear and dynamic.
- [Passive] Some new employees have been hired by them. → [Active] They have hired some new employees.
- [Passive] A new app has been launched. → [Active] We have launched a new app.
Looking for other ways to improve your business emails?
Check out these 150+ useful email phrases, download our free guide How to Write Professional Emails in English, and contact Talaera if you would like to receive personalized training on business English communication skills.
If you enjoyed this article, keep reading:
- 'Stay safe' - How to Send Actually Genuine Emails During the Pandemic
- How To Learn The Difference Between 'Really' And 'Very'?
- 14 Simple Rules That Will Make You A Better Communicator
- Learning Business English? +20 Top Tips You Need To Know
- How To Overcome The Top 4 Communication Barriers In The Workplace