The top 5 problems with emails in English when English is your 2nd language.
Understanding the correct way to structure an email message,
Misunderstanding email messages written in English as a 2nd language,
Knowing how to ask or answer questions in English as a 2nd language,
Taking 3 plus hours to write a response to an email in English as a 2nd language,
Not responding to important but “difficult to understand” emails messages!
Structure of a basic email message
"Structure of an Email Message")
The subject line should be short and give specific information about the contents of your email message.
The subject line should not be more than 4 or 5 words.
As in letter writing, the salutations can be formal or informal, depending on how well you know the person you are writing to.
When responding to an email message with someone you don't know it's always best to use the same salutation that they used.
This is another area where many people try to say too much. The opening sentence should only be an extension of the subject line, by providing a little more information.
This is where the body of your message goes… remember that less is more, which means… keep the body of the message short and to the point.
This is where you tell the reader what kind of response, if any, you expect. I recommend you always ask the receiver for a response.
Remember that more is less. Meaning don't over explain yourself. This is a problem most people have who communicate in any language as a second language. We tend to believe we have to say a lot to get our point across. This can cause a lot of confusion.
Like the salutation, the close can vary from formal to informal.
When responding to an email message with someone you don't know it's always best to use the same close that they used.
Misunderstanding email messages
Reading and writing email messages in English as a 2nd language is difficult enough but when the sender and the receiver both read and write English as a 2nd language the problems can be huge!
Some of the simple ways to understand any email message is to look for key words, filter out emotional text and of course use your skimming and scanning techniques.
Knowing how to ask or answer questions
When you just can't figure out what the other person is saying or asking for you're going to have to email back and ask some questions... but which questions and how?
The best ways to ask questions is to request clarification on a topic. Something like this:
I just wish to confirm that...
Can you confirm the number of widgets you want to order?
The order you received only had 5 blue tee shirts and you wanted 7, is that correct?
Sorry I need more information about...
Asking clarification questions or paraphrasing what the sender said in the email message is the best way to ask questions. You never want to say I don't understand what your email message says or don't say your email message doesn't make sense.
Time to respond to an email message
Some of the companies I have helped had complained that their staff can take up to 3 hours to respond to an email message and sometime 3 or more staff work together and still can take up to 3 hours.
This is not efficient and costs a lot of money for the company and slows down the communication process.
Using some of the techniques already discussed the time to respond will be greatly reduced.
Also you can use some delay tactics which are better than taking a long time to respond. You can send a response email message telling the sending that you have received their email and will respond within 2 hours, 2 days, etc. Just be sure that you do respond within the time frame you have set. Also it's good practice to say that if you have any questions you'll be back in touch with them.
Here's a sample of a time delay email message:
Thank you for your email message regarding your order for tee shirts.
I will confirm the details and provide a full response by 5 PM tomorrow.
If you have any questions please email me.
Thank you for your order and please wait for my response.
Not responding at all
When you receive a difficult to understand email message sometimes we just don't respond at all which leaves the sender wondering if you've received their email or not.
You should always respond to every email message even if it's to says "I've received your email and will respond soon."
This confirms with the sender that you've received their email message and gives you some time to work out what the sender is asking for.
If you need clarification then use good communication skills to ask those questions.
I have special English language classes for the following subjects:
If you have any questions or need English coaching for other reasons let me know and I'm sure I can help you.