Business tips & techniques: emails

Posted by on May 23, 2011

Chain email

Background
Emails need practising – just writing them once is not enough. So having done all the hard work of preparing content and language for a writing exercise in one class, why not use the same content again in the next class? The emails might turn out very different – that’s fine – but it’s like your ‘warmer’ has been done for you.

Activity
1 Write up on the board a typical first line of an email type covered in the last lesson. For example, one of these with the ‘…’ filled in according to an email you looked at before:

Thanks for your enquiry about our range of … products.
Thanks for your enquiry about our … services.
I am writing to arrange a time for …
I have just seen your online advertisement for …
Before I place a firm order, I would like to know …
I am writing to apply for the job of …
Just a quick query re the figures you sent.
Just a quick note to say many thanks for …
I am writing to complain about …

2 Ask the students to write this down on a piece of paper. Remind them quickly about the email/s in the last lesson, and explain that you are going to write similar ones in a chain round the class. However it is not a memory exercise, they shouldn’t refer directly to the earlier emails, and students can develop the email in whatever way they want. Looking at a phrase bank to help them is fine.

3 Each student adds their own second sentence to the email, then passes their paper to the person on their left, who adds one more sentence. They continue writing and passing, one sentence at a time.

4 Whenever an email is complete, that particular student keeps it until the end, when they read it out for everyone to hear.

Follow-up language work
I’m sure you can think of lots. Personally I would use blu-tac to stick all the emails on the walls around the room, and then the students can go round looking at them (like at pictures in an art gallery). At the end I would ask them which ideas and which language they liked best. I would finish with a few additional comments of my own about good structure, good use of language, and areas for reformulation into more complex or more appropriate or more accurate language.

More tips & techniques
If you would like similar tips and advice, visit the ‘Emails; Business reports‘ section of my website PaulEmmerson.com.

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