Writing Great Emails: Apologizing

Today’s

Vocabulary

(1) Apology, To apologize, Apologies: When you say that you’re sorry

He apologized for being late, but I couldn’t accept his apology. This happens too often. I’m tired of his apologies.

(2) To mess up: To make a mistake

I really messed up this time. I hope she doesn’t fire me.

(3) Blame: Responsibility for something bad

I blame our old technology. It makes everything go so slowly.

Today’s

Questions

1. What can you write in order to accept blame?

a. That was my fault.

b. It’s unfortunate that happened.

c. I heard they messed up your order.

2. What can you write to blame an unknown person?

a. It was wrong that I…

b. I understand that…

c. You’ll accept my apologies for…

3. What is the best length for an apology email?

a. Short

b. Medium

c. Long

7________________________

Writing Great Emails

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En-velop_bleu By Jeremy Schaar

Everyone makes mistakes. We feel terrible and we need to apologize. But how?

In this post, you’ll learn a few different ways to say that you’re sorry.

Review the situation and apologize

The first step in an apology email is to describe the bad thing that happened and say that you’re sorry. You should describe the situation simply and directly. Don’t write a lot. The other person probably already knows what happened. Still, you have to say something. Here are some examples:

I just learned that you didn’t receive your order. That was my fault. I’m really sorry.

I wanted to apologize for not telling you about the change.

I understand that you didn’t receive the order. Please accept my apologies.

It was unfortunate that you had such a bad experience at the show. I’m sorry that had to happen.

Note that in the first two examples, you did something wrong, so you accept responsibility. To focus the blame on yourself, say I. If it’s unclear who was wrong, you can say that was my fault. That means you accept the blame.

In the third and fourth examples, it seems like someone else was wrong. Sometimes you need to say sorry even though you didn’t make the mistake. I understand that and It was unfortunate that are good ways to do this. You don’t want to name the person who made the mistake. This lets you describe the bad thing without blaming anyone at all.

Please accept my apologies and I’m sorry that had to happen are good phrases in either situation. They’re formal and polite. They can be used in most situations.

Casual Apologies

Not every company or every person likes such formal language as above. For example, if you’ve been working with someone for a while and you’re friendly, the language above would seem strange. How can you apologize to a friend? Here are some examples.

I messed up with that. Sorry.

I really screwed that up.

Just needed to say sorry for that meeting yesterday.

In all three situations, you’re using casual language. Messed up and screwed up are both very casual. In the third example, just needed to is an informal way to start a sentence.

What’s next?

After saying that you’re sorry, you should suggest a solution if it’s possible. Then change the topic and end with something happier. Try to focus on the future and what’s going to happen next.

Don’t write a long email.

After you say you’re sorry and change the topic, end the email. It’s usually good advice to write short emails, but it’s especially important with apologies. Nothing good happens when you write details about how sorry you are or a long explanation about what went wrong. It doesn’t make the person feel better. If they need a long explanation, you might have to write more, but it will be better to meet with them than to write about it.

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

CHECK YOUR ANSWERS!

Answers To Today’s Questions

A, B, A

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You Can Do It All Yourself But You Dont Have To

Writing Great Emails: Useful Phrases #3

Today’s

Vocabulary

(1) Contact: Someone you know

I have a contact at that firm. Let me see if she can help.

(2) Independent clause: This is a grammar term. It basically means a sentence.

“Wondering about books” is a dependent clause. “I wonder about books” is an independent clause.

(3) To commit yourself: To agree to do something

I committed myself to working here for at least five years. After that, I might go back to school.

Today’s

Questions

1. Is “I’ll put you in touch with” casual or formal?

a. Casual

b. Formal

c. It can be used in both situations

2. Why does “It seems as if” let you change your mind

a. You’re talking about the evidence for something, not the thing itself

b. You’re making it seem like you’re not sure about the truth

c. You’re being very direct

3. Which sentence is a stronger belief?

a. He’ll get the contract.

b. It seems as if he’ll get the contract.

7________________________

Writing Great Emails

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En-velop_bleu By Jeremy Schaar

This week on the blog I’ll introduce two more useful phrases. You’ll learn what they mean and read a few examples of how you might use them.

1. I’ll put you in touch with

We use I’ll put you in touch with to introduce a contact. It’s polite and can be used in formal or casual situations. The contact might be someone who can help you or who will work with you. Here are two examples:

I’ll put you in touch with Julie in HR. She’ll help you with your orientation around here.

I’ll put you in touch with Mike at the law firm. The two of you should work together to complete this project.

I’ll put you in touch with is used when you are connecting two people. It can also be used to describe anyone being connected. Here are some examples:

She got me in touch with HR. They’ve been very helpful.

I need to get in touch with someone who knows the details better.

We’ve been in touch for a long time, but this is the first time we’re working closely together.

2. It seems as if…

It seems as if is a nice way to soften your sentence and take away personal responsibility. It lets you easily change your mind. It means “I think this is true because of the evidence.” It’s followed by an independent clause. For example:

It seems as if he doesn’t care.

It seems as if we’ll get the contract.

By itself, He doesn’t care, is very direct. You’re very sure. By adding “It seems as if” to the beginning, you’re leaving some doubt. You don’t want to be rude. You’re saying that the evidence shows that he doesn’t care. But he might.

Same for the second example. Something makes you think that you’ll get the contract. But your comment is on the evidence, not the contract.

It is therefore a nice way to give an opinion without committing yourself. If the evidence changes, you can easily change your mind and not look stupid.

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

CHECK YOUR ANSWERS!

Answers To Today’s Questions

C, A, A

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You Can Do It All Yourself But You Dont Have To

Writing Great Emails–Making Sure You’re Understood 2

Today’s

Vocabulary

(1) Task: Something you do for work, part of a job

Your task is to summarize these pages before the day is done.

(2) P.S.: Post Script, the sentence you write at the bottom after your name.

Kind regards,

Jeremy

P.S. Say hi to your kids!

(3) Carefully: With attention to detail

You need to carry those glasses carefully. They might break.

Today’s

Questions

1. Which sentences do you know people will read?

a. The closing sentence

b. All of them

c. The first sentence and the P.S.

2. Why shouldn’t you use bold too much?

a. It’s like yelling

b. It’s confusing

c. It doesn’t get people’s attention

3. What is the best way to make sure people understood your email?

a. Write clearly

b. Talk with them about the email later

c. Write short sentences

7________________________

Writing Great Emails

________________________

En-velop_bleu

By Jeremy Schaar

Last week, I presented five ways to make sure people understand your emails. This week, you’ll learn about five more.

(1) If you want people to do something, tell them in the first sentence.

Unfortunately, people don’t read emails carefully. But they will read the first sentence, so make sure you write a good first sentence.

(2) Bold can be your friend–just be careful

Bold is a font choice. It makes the letters a little bigger and darker. People read things that are in bold much more. But, be careful. Using bold is normal for the title of a section, but if you use bold in a regular sentence, it’s like you’re yelling. That can be OK. But don’t yell too much.

(3) People always read the P.S.

People always read the first sentence and they always read the P.S. So the P.S. is a great place to put important information. For example, you might tell them about the deadline.

P.S. We should have this finished by Friday. Is that schedule OK?

(4) Ask them to do something small and easy

One way to make sure people are reading your email is to include a small task in the middle. If they’ve read carefully, they’ll do it right away. If they haven’t read carefully, they’ll miss it. For example, you might ask them to complete a five-second survey. The survey might not be important, but you’ll know that they read your email carefully.

(5) Check back later

And this is the best way. Just stay in contact. We’re all busy people and we all get many emails. Don’t be afraid to ask people how things are going.

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

CHECK YOUR ANSWERS!

Answers To Today’s Questions

C, A, B

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You Can Do It All Yourself But You Dont Have To

Writing Great Emails–Making Sure You’re Understood

Today’s

Vocabulary

(1) In theory: Used before something that is just a good idea, but not true.

In theory, the project should have cost $500,000 and been completed by July.

(2) In Practice: Used before describing how it actually works.

In practice, the project has cost over $1,000,000 and it’s still not done.

(3) Tip: A helpful idea

Let me give you a tip: don’t go home before your boss.

Today’s

Questions

1. Why should you write shorter emails?

a. They’re easier to write.

b. They’re easier to understand.

c. You have to be less careful.

2. Why should you write short sentences?

a. They’re easier to write.

b. They’re easier to understand.

c. You have to be less careful.

3. Why is it good to put a summary at the start of a long email?

a. The email will be easier to write.

b. The email will be easier to understand.

c. The email will seem carefully written.

7________________________

Writing Great Emails

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En-velop_bleu

By Jeremy Schaar

Managers often use emails to communicate with their employees. Unfortunately, it’s a hard thing to do. In theory, it should be as simple as writing the important information in an email and hitting send. In practice, emails aren’t read carefully. People read quickly. Or they don’t read at all.

A wise man once said: “Anyone who says that they’re great at communicating but ‘people are bad at listening’ is confused about how communication works.”

So, if your employees don’t remember things you wrote, don’t blame them. Instead, write better emails.

Here are five tips for doing that:

1. Write a short email. If you write several paragraphs, people won’t read them carefully.

2. Write short sentences. People can’t remember too many things at one time. If a sentence has too many ideas, it’ll be hard to understand. Here’s an example of a bad sentence:

The marketing report I was supposed to send on Tuesday, while you were out of the office, but it’s not done and has to be finished before Mr. Smith returns from his honeymoon in Las Vegas.

That sentence has too many ideas. By the time you read “Las Vegas”, you’ve forgotten about the marketing report. Probably, you can delete some unimportant stuff. If everything is important, then make it into more sentences.

I was supposed to send the marketing report on Tuesday. You were out of the office, but it’s not done. It has to be finished before Mr. Smith returns from his honeymoon in Las Vegas.

Those periods make it much easier to read and understand.

3. Say the important stuff first. If something is really important, say it in the first sentence.

4. Choose good subjects. If the email is all about the marketing report, then the subject should be: Marketing Report. Be simple and clear.

5. For longer emails, start with a summary of the whole email. You can even make a list. For example:

I have a lot to talk about. In this email, I’ll cover the schedule for the product release, the expense budget, and what you need to prepare by Friday.

Next week, you’ll get five more tips to make sure people understand you.

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

CHECK YOUR ANSWERS!

Answers To Today’s Questions

B, B, B

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You Can Do It All Yourself But You Dont Have To

Writing Great Emails–How To Be Direct

Today’s

Vocabulary

(1) I was wondering if: This is a very polite way to start a quesion

I was wondering if you had thought about my offer?

(2) Direct: Straight. Without politeness. Saying exactly.

Tell him directly that you’re not happy with the project. You can’t be polite or he won’t understand that you’re serious.

(3) To deal with: To work with or have contact with

I mainly deal with suppliers in Japan.

Today’s

Questions

1. How can you be more direct?

a. Make it shorter

b. Delete questions

c. Say exactly how you feel

2. In the second very polite example, how does the person know what you want?

a. You ask him a question about it

b. He should guess

c. You say it exactly

3. Why does culture matter for writing emails?

a. Koreans like to guess

b. Some cultures prefer more polite emails

c. It doesn’t matter

7________________________

Writing Great Emails

________________________

En-velop_bleu

By Jeremy Schaar

Last week I wrote about how to be polite. But what about the opposite emotion? What if you want to be direct?

This week, I’ll cover just that. I’ll discuss some situations where you might want to be more direct and give you specific examples to help you learn.

The general rule for being more direct is to say exactly how you feel. Let’s look at some examples.

Situation: Set up a meeting on Thursday

Very Polite: I was wondering if you had some time to meet on Thursday?

Normal Polite: Can we meet on Thursday?

Direct: We need to meet on Thursday.

Note that it gets shorter. In the direct example, the question disappears. It becomes an order.

Situation: Your co-worker forgot to contact Mike and he needs to contact him.

Very Polite: Do you know what’s going on with Mike?

Normal Polite: I wanted to remind you that Mike still hasn’t heard back from you.

Direct: You were supposed to contact Mike last week. Please email him right away.

In the polite example, you don’t even mention that he needs to contact Mike. He should guess it. In the normal polite example, you get a little bit closer. In the direct example, you say exactly how you feel.

Why might you want to be more direct? You might have tried to be polite and it didn’t work. You might be the boss and you have no need to be polite. Or it might be someone you have a good relationship with already.

Culture also matters. If you’re writing to someone in Korea, it’s important to be careful and be very polite. They’ll be able to guess your feelings. However, if you’re writing to someone in Israel, they’ll like it if you are more direct. They’ll like it and, if you don’t say how you actually feel, they might not understand you. It depends on the country and if you’re regularly dealing with someone from that country, you should study the culture and learn what’s best.

Company culture and job also matter. The way you should write to an engineer at a software company is different than writing to a marketer at a car company. It’s important to know your audience. Over the next year, you’ll learn about how to deal with different audiences.

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

CHECK YOUR ANSWERS!

Answers To Today’s Questions

C, B, B

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You Can Do It All Yourself But You Dont Have To

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