Writing Great Emails


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(1) Representative/Rep: A person who represents a company

The company rep said that they’ll talk about the company plans today.

(2) To be shocked: To be very surprised

I was shocked to discover a mouse under my desk.

(3) Rude: Unkind, offensive

She was very rude and walked away without saying hello.



1. What shocking thing is this lesson about?

a. Someone forgets a previous email.

b. Someone tells you a lie.

c. Someone tries to sell you apples.

2. What phrase is the most polite?

a. I was surprised to hear that…

b. I told you that…

c. Don’t you remember that…

3. What phrase is the most direct?

a. I was surprised to hear that…

b. I told you that…

c. Don’t you remember that…


Writing Great Emails



By Jeremy Schaar

Imagine this situation: You work for a company that exports apples and you want some farmers to sell to you. You want to sell the farmers’ apples in grocery stores in New York City. You’re also working with a representative of a grocery store in New York City.

So, we have you (the middleman), the farmers, and the grocery store in New York.

You and the New York grocery store have been planning to make a presentation to the farmers. You’ll present about transportation of the apples and the grocery store will present about sales in New York.

You’re a good business person and you send an email to the rep of the New York store to confirm his travel plans. You’re shocked when he says that he can’t come to the presentation. He says that he didn’t know about the presentation and wishes you luck.

Now, you’re shocked because you definitely told him about the presentation several times. You even have previous emails to prove it. What you really want is to be rude. You want to ask him why he’s being so stupid. However, if you do that, you might make him angry and working with him in the future could be hard. How can you remind him of the previous emails and still be polite?

You can say: I was surprised to hear you won’t be able to come because I mentioned it in several previous emails.

Why is this polite? Well, first it uses the passive voice. You say “I was surprised” but you don’t say “by your action”. The passive voice lets you delete the offensive action.

Second, “you won’t be able to come” is grammar that makes it seem like it’s not his fault. It’s like you’re assuming that he wants to come but something is stopping him.

Finally, “I mentioned it” is a very polite phrase. It would be very direct to say “I told you”. “I told you” is OK if you’re the boss. Otherwise, it’s probably too direct.

How about if you want to be very direct and a little rude? You could say this:

That’s terrible. I told you about the meeting and you can check your emails to see that I told you. You really need to come. Please rearrange your schedule so that you can attend. It will be a disaster if you don’t come.

But that’s very direct. Usually, you’ll want to be polite.

Want more practice? Got questions? Comment on the blog, Facebook, or Twitter.


Answers To Today’s Questions

A, A, B


You Can Do It All Yourself But You Dont Have To

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