10 Rules for Business Emails

Can you write a business email? It’s an important job skill if your company has international customers. An email message – with no mistakes – says you are a pro. You are believable.

Learn the 10 rules for writing business emails. Learn from other people’s mistakes. Start writing like a business professional.

Business Email Writing Mistakes

Here are two emails. One email was written by a hotel guest. The second email was written by hotel staff. The emails are original. I only changed the names of the people and places to protect their privacy.

What’s wrong with the hotel’s message?

Hotel Guest Email

From: Steve xxxx

Hi, I stayed in your great hotel Saturday night. I seemed to have left my cell phone in room 743. Did you find it?? If so, can it be mailed to me in Daejeon?


Hotel Reply


This is Bluebird hotel^^

Thanks for using our hotel.

We found you’re cell phone, but we could not find.

I’m so sorry.

Have a nice day.

Email Analysis

Did you find the mistakes in the hotel email? There are lots of them.

Below are 10 rules for writing a business email. Read the rules. Then re-read the hotel’s email message. How many mistakes can you find now?

10 Rules for Writing Business E-Mails

1.      Remember PAS. Purpose, action, salutation. The beginning should say the purpose; why you are writing. Next, the email should have clear action: are you giving information or asking for something? Finally, close the email with a salutation, a polite way to say goodbye.

2.     Be informal, but not too friendly. ‘Hello’, or ‘Hi’ are okay. Sometimes, people write emails that begin with a name, like “Steve”. Contractions are okay (e.g. I’d, he’d, we’ve). Never use emoticons.

3.      Be concise. Business e-mails are short. No repetition. Usually, 2 paragraphs are enough – few people read long emails.

4.      Use a descriptive subject line. Tell readers why they should open your email.

5.      Remember the mechanics: good grammar, word choice, punctuation and spelling.

6.      Scan. People scan emails. If it is interesting, they might read it carefully. Many people receive 25 to 100 emails a day. They don’t have time to read every email. Short sentences and short paragraphs are good.

7.      Reference. If your email is a reply, say that. Something like this: “In your last email you asked …..” is okay.

8.      Attachment. If your message has an attachment, add one sentence to say that.

9.      Layout. Use white space. Usually, 2 lines per paragraph. This makes the message easy to scan and read.

10.  Write with active sentences. Passive sentences use more words and take longer to read.

Rewrite the Email

I asked my students to rewrite the hotel email based on the 10 rules. Here is what one student wrote.


This is Bluebird Hotel. We received your email about a lost phone.

We asked our cleaning staff to check the room. Unfortunately, the housekeepers were unable to find your phone.

If we find your cell phone at a later date, we will contact you immediately.

Best of luck to you.

The Bluebird Hotel

That’s it for this lesson. Send me your ideas and email samples.

Photo by Fletcher Prince

3 thoughts on “10 Rules for Business Emails”

  1. This lesson was indeed an eye-opener on how not to write emails. Thanks for the 10 Rules. They’re really informative!

  2. Just came across this lesson; looks like a lot of fun. I’m teaching a legal English group in Milan, and they wanted to talk about business/legal email writing, and with a couple of small tweaks along with some other materials I think this is going to be a cool lesson for us.


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