I have had conversations with foreigners who hope to do business in the US or other places where English is spoken/written.
They ask me, “I want to use email to introduce myself, but I don’t have the best English writing skills. What should I do?”
In my opinion, you can overcome the barrier — and make the exchange less awkward — through a simple solution.
Be up front about your English writing ability.
Here’s an example:
Hi Mr. Williams,
My name is [first and last name], and I am [job title] at [name of company]. I’m writing to discuss a possible partnership between our two businesses. Please excuse my English as it’s not my first language.
The “please excuse” line allows you to be honest and transparent. And then it will make the email recipient focus less on your words and more on your overall message.
HOWEVER, you should still do your best to make the email read well. And that also means you should avoid typos and misspellings as much as possible. When in doubt on a grammar rule or spelling, Google it.
I also recommend you print out your email and read it aloud to yourself. You will catch more mistakes that way rather than looking at it over and over on the screen.
Additional ways to improve your email communication with US businesses:
Begin the email with “Hi ____,”
The other options don’t feel right.
Hello: too flat and impersonal
Hey: too comfortable
Dear: too formal
Hey Hey: don’t even think about it
And if I don’t have the person’s name, I go with “Hi there,”
Safe, courteous and won’t rub the person the wrong way.
Careful with capitalization
Incorrect: I am a Marketing Coordinator at Acme Industries.
Correct: I am a marketing coordinator at Acme Industries.
Explanation: Job titles are lowercase unless they come before your name (ex: Marketing Coordinator Jane Doe is…).
Important-sounding business words
Incorrect: Common phrase in a business email — Experienced company with strong Track Record of Success.
Correct: Experienced company with strong track record of success.
Explanation: We don’t capitalize non-specific business words no matter how important they seem (“Success”). If you attend the Acme Team Leader Training Seminar, then the words are uppercase because they’re part of a proper title.
Easy on the exclamation marks
Rather than start off strong with exclamations, let other people make the first move and match their emotion. That way, you’re always in line with how they want to exchange messages.
If the person writes back:
Thanks so much for the note!
Then you say:
If the person goes with:
Thanks so much for the note.
Then you reply:
When you defer to other people, you’re always right. If they want to drop exclamations here and there, so do you. If they prefer to keep it plain, you feel the same way.
What other questions do you have about emailing US businesses?