Five DON’Ts in English emails

If you have to write emails in English, take a moment and check this list to make sure that you aren’t committing any of these faux pas.

Here are five qualities that I don’t like in emails. These can either make you look unprofessional in English or just cause the reader to feel uncomfortable.

  1. Bad subject lines

Sometimes you get emails with the subject line, “Hello!” or “Question”. Or worse, you get an email with no subject line at all.

When you are busy at work, you are probably going to look at your email box and try to prioritize which emails to deal with first. If you don’t have good subject lines, it becomes harder to see what emails should be prioritized and which can be saved for later.

This means, try to include useful information in the subject line that alerts the reader to the content of your email. Not only is it helpful for them, it is also respectful of their time and attention.

DON’T say: Meeting

SAY: Meeting today about presentation X


  1. Overly formal (or informal) expressions

Pay attention to the way the other person writes to you. Is it very formal (because you are just starting a relationship) or is it more business neutral? Try to match!

Generally, if you use very formal expressions (such as, “If you could kindly return the signed document, we would appreciate it.”) when talking with someone you know, it feels colder and less personal. This means that it will not feel great to receive such an email from someone you have been working with for a long time.

Instead of this, you should use more friendly or neutral language, such as, “Please returned the signed document. Thank you.


  1. No greeting or sign off

If you skip the greeting at the beginning or don’t sign your name (or just use the first letter of your name), this feels a little bit too direct and short.

It is OK, if you are writing back and forth with the same person repeatedly all day long, but outside of this context, it is better to always include a “Hello,” or a “Kind regards,” to begin and end your email!


  1. Using textspeak 

If you are chatting or messaging with someone, it is usually OK to use shorted versions of words, such as “thx” or “pls”. This type of writing is very casual.

However, if you are writing from a computer, with a full keyboard, it gives a lazy appearance to an email. It is easy to write out the full words “thanks” and “please”, so do it! It is just a couple more letters and it makes the reader feel that you are taking the time


  1. Using ALLCAPS

In English-speaking culture, using uppercase letters in chatting, texting or emails is considered like SHOUTING at someone. Please keep this in mind, because if you accidentally write the message, “THAT’S FINE.” to a colleague, their impression will be that you are angry and that, perhaps, it is NOT fine.


If you want to practice your English email writing, feel free to sign up for a business English class here or let me know if you have questions!