Introduction:

The structure of a formal business email or letter of response/reply in English is the same as in many other languages. You start by writing an introduction that states that you're responding. Then in the next section, you answer the questions that have been asked or confirm information. And in the last, you ask if the information you have written is fine and offer the receiver the opportunity to contact you. The structure of a formal and a neutral (less formal) email is more or less the same. The difference is in the vocabulary and phrases that are used.

In this online exercise on writing emails in English, we will look at business English vocabulary and phrases for formal emails or letters of response/reply. Remember, when you write a formal business email or letter in English, you have to be polite.

Click here to see more of our free online exercises on writing emails/letters


Example & Exercise: A business email of response/reply

Read the below formal business email of response about a project in an airport from an external project manager to a client.

From the context, try to guess what the meaning of the words/phrases in bold are. Then do the quiz at the end to check if you are right.

Dear Mr McAdam,

With reference to your last email regarding the current situation with the Skipton Airport Project, I can confirm the following:

We successfully completed stage 2 on Monday and at present we are preparing to start stage 3. On the whole, the project is going well. We have not encountered any problems with the machinery but there are still some minor issues with the delivery system. As was pointed out in our last meeting, the problem with the delivery system is due to the software. It is a very common software issue and we just need time to correct the code. Rest assured that this issue is being looked into and we are confident that it will be resolved by the end of the month.

Please accept my apologises for not receiving a copy of the updated Project Report earlier. Please find attached a copy of the report below:

Concerning your question about the post-installation support package, I can confirm that we provide both remote and call-out site support 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This covers remote monitoring, a service every 3 months, service engineer visits and the cost of all parts and labour.

With regards to your request to extend the period of post-installation support from 6 months to 12 months. May I suggest that we discuss this matter at the next project update meeting?

I hope that this answers your questions.

If you require any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me on my mobile, 07340 7602133.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,




David Mitchell
Project Manager


Now do the QUIZ below to make sure you know how to write this type of email.

Click to see more email/letter exercises & examples


Quiz: Formal email of response

Below is a definition/description of each of the words/phrases in bold from the above text. Now choose the word/phrase from the question's selection box which you believe answers each question. Only use one word/phrase once. Click on the "Check Answers" button at the bottom of the quiz to check your answers.

When the answer is correct, an Additional Information Icon "" will appear next to the answer. Click on this for extra information on the word/phrase and for a translation.

1. A way to say that you have included the information on a file in the email, is
         

Please find attached:
(phrase) This is very polite and is commonly used in formal emails. A more neutral way to say the same is 'I have attached'. Both are followed by details of the file (if not already explained before) and 'below', e.g. 'Please find attached a copy of the contract below'. In letters we use 'enclosed/included' instead of 'attached'. In Spanish: "Se adjunta a".

Close

2. A polite way to say 'I think we should', is
         

May I suggest that:
(phrase) This is an extremely polite way to express your opinion or make a suggestion about something. It sounds like you're asking their permission to suggest something, but in fact you're not. And it can be used in various situations, e.g. 'May I suggest that we hold the next meeting here?'. In Spanish: "le sugiero que".

Close

3. A phrase that introduces the answers in an email/letter, is
         

I can confirm the following:
(phrase) This is a commonly used formal sentence to introduce the section of your answers. It is normally followed by a colon ':'. If it's the answer to only one question, then it is more common to use 'I can confirm that'. In Spanish: "puedo confirmar lo siguiente".

Close

4. A different way to say 'we expect that' is
         

We are confident that:
(phrase) This is used when you want to reassure the person receiving the email/letter that you believe that some action will either be finished or successful in the future. It is a very clever phrase because it doesn't confirm 100% that it will be finished or successful. Look at the difference between 'The contract will be signed by Tuesday' and 'We are confident that the contract will be signed by Tuesday'. In Spanish: "estamos seguros de que".

Close

5. A different way to say 'with regards to', is
         

Concerning:
(preposition) This is used to introduce the subject of a question that the person who will receive the email has asked you, e.g. 'Concerning the question of ownership'. It is then followed by your answer, e.g. 'I can confirm that the property is still yours'. 'Concerning' has exactly the same meaning as 'with regards to' and 'regarding'. In Spanish: "con respecto a".

Close

6. A more formal way to say 'currently', is
         

At present:
(adverb) This basically means what is currently happening. It has the same meaning as 'at the moment' or 'currently', but 'at present' sounds more professional. In Spanish: "actualmente".

Close

7. A more formal way to say 'subject', is
         

Matter:
(noun) In this context 'matter' has the same meaning as 'topic' or 'subject', but it sounds more formal and professional. With this meaning, it generally follows the verbs 'to discuss' or 'to talk about', e.g. 'I believe that we need to discuss this matter next week'. Be careful with using 'matter', it has a lot of different meanings. For example 'What's the matter?' means 'What's wrong?'. In Spanish: "asunto".

Close

8. A way to inform somebody that they have already been told about something before, is
         

As was pointed out:
(phrase) This is very formal and sounds very professional. It is used to remind somebody that you have already talked about a subject with them or answered one of their questions before. It has the same meaning as 'as was said ', which sounds less formal, or 'as we told you', which sounds impolite and aggressive. It is generally followed by when or where it was said, e.g. 'As was pointed out last month, it will be delivered by the end of June'. In Spanish: "como se señaló en".

Close

9. A different way to say 'concerning', is
         

With regards to:
(preposition) This is used to introduce the subject of a question that the person who will receive the email has asked you, i.e. 'With regards to the question of ownership'. It is then followed by your answer, e.g. 'I can confirm that the property is still yours'. 'With regards to' has exactly the same meaning as 'concerning' and 'regarding'. In Spanish: "con respecto a".

Close

10. A formal way to say 'don't worry', is
         

Rest assured that:
(phrase) This is very formal and sounds very professional. It's generally used when there are issues or problems and somebody is worried about them. This phrase is a way to reassure the person receiving the email/letter that you will resolve or deal with them, e.g. 'Rest assured that there is no risk to your investment'. In Spanish: "Puede estar seguro de que/Puede estar tranquilo que".

Close

11. A more formal way to say 'in general', is
         

On the whole:
(adverb) This sounds more professional than 'in general'. It basically means the majority of something. But It doesn't mean 'everything'. It is often used in business when giving a review or an update, e.g. 'On the whole, the department is performing well'. But it suggests that there are a few small issues, e.g. 'but there are a few areas where they need to make improvements'. In Spanish: "en general".

Close

12. A phrase that connects a situation or problem to its cause, is
         

Due to:
(preposition) This sounds professional. It has the same meaning as 'on account of', which is very formal, or 'because of' which is informal. It is commonly used in writing when you want to explain what is the cause of an event or situation, e.g. 'the flood was due to the heavy rain'. In Spanish: "debido a".

Close







Practice

Now that you understand the vocabulary of writing a formal business email or letter of response, practice them by writing your own business email of response with the new words/phrases.

Blair English online classes