How not to be afraid to write in English at work

To find a job in an international team, and then work successfully, it is not enough to speak English, you need to be able to correspond. Writing in English can be scary: there is both a fear of making a mistake and a lack of experience. Let’s take a look at the points why this happens and how specifically you can help yourself if this skill is really needed in the near future.

Why is it scary to write in English for work?

Little practice

In ordinary life, we talk at least on trips. We can read and listen to many places – the same series with subtitles. But if the job is not yet related to English, then you rarely have to write (a couple of messages on airbnb do not count). And the less practice, the more you are afraid.

No additional supports

When we speak, gestures, eyes, facial expressions, intonation help us convey the idea. When we write, it is not. Other supports are needed here.

Harder to mend

In oral speech it is easy to correct. He made a reservation, muttered – it doesn’t matter anymore, everyone understood the meaning, somewhere the moderator of the call clarified. In writing, it seems the opposite: what is written pen email, it will stay that way. The fear of failure is stronger. Glory function Edit in messengers and pop-up tips. But if this is a letter to a boss or a hiring manager, you are still very worried. And you send two hours late.

Context is not always understood

In our native language, we correspond in dozens of chats every day and intuitively adjust to the tone of each. In which chat what meme, where a ton of emoticons, where not, where “ATP” is ok/normal, but where a complete sentence and with all the commas. You realize this when you mix up the chats a couple of times. In English, we do not have enough knowledge about the cultural context, about what is acceptable, what tone of voice is needed in writing. What will I look like in this communication? – in my head this question and some unflattering answers.

What can be done to make it easier?

Writing is a skill that will not develop itself. To write, you have to write. It’s worth putting in the time. Especially if you plan to work in a remote team, where the ability to write quickly, accurately and politely is your everything. Below are tips on how to improve your business writing skill now.

Starting with a communication goal

The communicative goal is what you want to convey with your message, get your message across. Try not to write a letter or message right away, but first clearly and briefly formulate for yourself (preferably in English right away) why you are writing. Examples of communication goals: to ask for information / to arrange a meeting / to set a deadline, etc.

Then it is important to formalize your communication goal into a full sentence – I am writing to; I’m emailing to; I’m reaching out about.

The most important part of your letter/message is ready. It is only important to re-read and check whether the addressee, after reading the communicative goal, will be able to understand what he needs to do. If yes, then everything is ready – go to the fringe and details.

For training, it is worth writing several messages of different goals in advance and having support for each type at hand. Supports can be individual phrases from the emails of colleagues or your constructions, verified by a linguist, tutor or native speaker. Examples of supports that will come in handy when you need to write a letter in English:

  • I received your contact information from…

  • I am writing in reply to your email… /I am writing in reference to the information you provided…

  • I am writing to clarify some details…

  • I apologise for the urgency, but could you… /It would be great if you could address this by [date and time].

  • I am writing to schedule a meeting to discuss our monthly priorities…

  • As you requestedI have checked the slides…

  • Sorry that it took me so long to get back to you.

  • Please take a look at the attached file/ I am enclosing… / Here’s the document you asked for

  • I’d really appreciate it if you could

Don’t Forget Kindness and Gentleness

Often the recipient may well understand your message, but not at all want to do what you ask him to do – the message is written too rudely, without details and directly. To avoid this impression, it is important to use polite language. In English, they help with this:

a. modal verbs could/ would: Could you send…

b. an interrogative sentence instead of a statement: Could you send it by Monday?

d. softening the wording: not quite correct instead of wrong (for British culture).

Adding a fringe

Before and after the main thought, it is worth adding phrases and sentences familiar to everyone – for example, at the beginning of a letter there may be a universal politeness phrase like: “I hope this email finds you well.” And at the end of “thank you” and phrases about further contact: Looking forward to hearing from you /Let me know how else I can help; Please contact me in chat if you’ve got any questions; Don’t hesitate to reach out on anything you need.

Elena Tarasova, career consultant, HR specialist and international recruiter, shared an example of a good letter template that does not use complex structures – everything is described as simply and clearly as possible. It is not necessary to use super language to write an effective and understandable letter or message:

Hey Dave,

I hope that everything is OK over therefringe). I just have a few questions about the Skipton Airport Project (communicative purpose).

First (information is structured, divided into paragraphs, there is no chaos), can you give me an update on where you are on the project? I’d also appreciate if you couldvery polite, no wording “on the forehead”) explain what the current issues with the delivery system are? And confirm when you expect them to be resolved.

Also, at the end of our last meeting I asked for a copy of the latest Project Report. I still haven’t received one. Can you forward it to me?

And lastly, we’re thinking about extending the period of the post-installation support from your company from 6 months to 12 months. Can you give us a quote for this extension?

Please get back to me with the information as soon as possible (also fringe, but probably can be replaced with something more delicate).

thanks

Maintaining the right style

Introductory phrases, like all writing, are very style dependent. Therefore, it is useful to understand how the formal style differs from the informal one. The official one is needed for emails to the authorities, an external client, when applying for a vacancy. Informal for chats within teams.

The first letter to a stranger is best written in a formal or neutral style. You can switch to informal only in a situation where you know the addressee well and are sure that this is appropriate. In English it is difficult to overdo it with politeness.

Corporation

Smaller company

Startup of 5 IT people

Dear Mr. Potter,

Hi Harry,

Hey!

best regards,

Cheers

– (too lazy to write even see you or CU)

well received. thank you!

I’ve got it, thanks.

Gotcha

Looking forward to meeting you in person

I’ll be happy to see you for a coffee

Let’s grab a beer

Do not abuse the online translator

You should not translate the text from Russian into English with a Google translator (or even in your head) – even if the meaning can be conveyed, the structure and style may be irrelevant. Better enjoy sample texts – examples of texts of the same type created by native speakers. To do this, get yourself a file where you copy the templates of the messages you need for work. Collecting such templates is painstaking work. It is best to practice writing emails and messages that are relevant to your work and context, in a team with an experienced linguist or native.

Worry less about the little things

When our letter is ready, it is important to subtract it for errors and typos, but you should not worry about every pretext (grammar Nazi is everywhere, yes, but they are not liked everywhere either). The main thing is to stop worrying about your language in time and let go, or rather, send this message at last, and not sit over it for an hour. Even native speakers do not write perfectly – everyone makes mistakes.

And finally – more practice

The obvious but inevitable conclusion is that in order to write cool in English, you need to write as much as possible.

With active practice and preparation of templates can help business Writing Sprint from AgileFluent. In two weeks, it will be possible to work out 8 types of letters from a chat acquaintance to the CEO’s email, use carefully selected lists of useful phrases for each case and receive detailed feedback on each task from a personal tutor. Learn more about the sprint and sign up at website.

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