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Jan 26 2013

Writing Business E-mails in English, Part 3

Direct VS. Indirect Language


Business e-mailsLet’s continue our study of writing business e-mails.  There are two main styles when writing a business e-mail.  One is formal and the other is informal.  When writing a formal e-mail, your language will be more indirect.  An informal e-mail contains language that is direct. 


In the United States and Canada, most people use a business-like and polite tone that is fairly direct.  The point or purpose is stated briefly, clearly and quickly.




Use direct language if:

  • You are writing to a co-worker
  • You are not making a special request
  • You expect your request to be accepted

It’s okay to use very direct language if you are writing to your employee or someone who works for you. 

Use indirect language if:

  • You are writing to a customer, a stranger, or your boss
  • You are trying to say something difficult or negative

Example:      Very direct  – This needs to be done today.

                     Less direct – Please do this today.

                     Indirect – We need this tomorrow, so I’d appreciate your getting it done as soon as possible.

Here are some other examples of direct vs. indirect language.writing Business emails

1)  Very direct – Send them to me right away.

    Less direct – Please send them to me right away.

    Indirect – I would appreciate it very much if you could send them to me right away.

2)  Very direct – Let me know what you think.

     Less direct – I would like to know what you think.

     Indirect – I welcome your questions and comments.

3)  Very direct – We do not have the item in stock.

      Less direct  – We are sorry that we do not have the item in stock.

      Indirect – We regret to inform you that we do not currently have the item in stock.

4)  Very direct – I’ll see you at the meeting.

      Less direct – I look forward to seeing you at the meeting.

     Indirect  – It is with great pleasure that I look forward to seeing you at the meeting on Thursday.

Business English e-mailsRemember to always use a tone that is friendly, whether they are important customers or  just colleagues.  It’s important to treat everyone with respect.

In the next part, we will be looking at e-mail greetings and closures.  Goodbye for now from Worldwide English in Houston, Texas.

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