English, Grammar and Business Writing Tips
Request for information
I am writing to inquire about . . .
I am writing in reference to . . .
I read/heard . . . and would like to know . . .
Could you please send me . . .
at the address below/above
Thank you for your assistance.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Response to request
Thank you for your interest/inquiry
Enclosed is the information you requested.
You can learn more about this at . . .
If you have further questions,
If you require assistance, please contact:
If I can be of more help, please feel free to contact me at . . .
Sample Sentences: Requests
Could you please send me your most recent brochure?
Could you fax me the results of the market survey?
I would like to order ten copies of the book, Touchy Situations.
I would be very grateful if you could send me this information.
Please return the enclosed envelope with your payment.
Sample Sentences: Goodwill
Thank you for your hospitality.
I enjoyed having lunch with you last week while I was in New York.
Congratulations on your promotion to General Manager.
I want(ed) to congratulate you on your new position.
I was happy to hear that contract negotiations went well.
Sample Sentences: Introduction of Product/Service.
I am writing to tell you about . . .
(Our new product) is coming out next month.
This product/service is designed to (help you) . . .
Sample Sentences: Reference
I am writing in regard to . . .
I am writing in reference to . . .
Please refer to the enclosed invoice/brochure.
I hope you have had a chance to look over the materials we sent.
Sample Sentences: Confirmation
I am writing to confirm . . .
I would like to confirm what we discussed last Friday.
I would just like to confirm the main points we discussed . . .
Sample Sentences: Notification
I am writing to let you know that . . .
Please be aware/informed that . . .
I would like to inform you of a recent policy change.
I am happy to inform
you that . . .
Your request for funding has been approved.
Sample Sentences: Offering Assistance
We would be happy to . . .
If we can be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to ask.
Sample Sentences: Collection
According to our records . . .
Our records show that . . .
Your monthly installment is past due.
Please send payment as soon as possible.
- Use Best Regards
- Don’t use explanations
- “The meeting was led by Tom,” write: “Tom led the meeting.” Use a straightforward sentence structure–subject, verb, object–that people can read quickly.
- Choose pronouns wisely, and don’t be afraid to use “me.” “I often read versions of ‘Send the memo to Bob and myself,’” says Fogarty. “For some reason people think that ‘myself’ sounds more important or formal.” To avoid this mistake, Forgarty recommends thinking about how you would say the sentence if you removed mentions of other people. “Send the memo to me” sounds correct. If you add “Bob” to that clause, the “me” pronoun still works.
- Beware of common grammatical mistakes, like subject-verb agreement. The number of the subject (whether it’s singular or plural) determines the number of the verb. Use a singular verb form after nobody, someone, everybody, neither, everyone, each and either.
- Know when to use “that” and “which.” “That” introduces essential information in what’s called a “restrictive clause.” “Which” introduces extra information in a “nonrestrictive clause.” Here’s an example: “I’m interested in speaking with you about our new product, which has the potential to increase sales.” The second clause provides extra information, and it isn’t essential to the first clause. Therefore, “which” is correct. In a sentence such as “Computers are the only products that we sell,” the clause “that we sell” is essential to the meaning of the sentence, so the correct word is “that.” You can’t remove the “that” clause without changing the meaning of the sentence.
Accept vs. Except
These two words sound similar but have very different meanings. Acceptmeans to receive something willingly: “His mom accepted his explanation” or “She accepted the gift graciously.” Except signifies exclusion: “I can attend every meeting except the one next week.” To help you remember, note that both except and exclusion begin with ex.
Affect vs. Effect
To make these words even more confusing than they already are, both can be used as either a noun or a verb. Let’s start with the verbs. Affectmeans to influence something or someone; effect means to accomplish something. “Your job was affected by the organizational restructuring” but “These changes will be effected on Monday.” As a noun, an effect is the result of something: “The sunny weather had a huge effect on sales.” It’s almost always the right choice because the noun affect refers to an emotional state and is rarely used outside of psychological circles: “The patient’s affect was flat.”
Lie vs. Lay
We’re all pretty clear on the lie that means an untruth. It’s the other usage that trips us up. Lie also means to recline: “Why don’t you liedown and rest?” Lay requires an object: “Lay the book on the table.” Lieis something you can do by yourself, but you need an object to lay. It’s more confusing in the past tense. The past tense of lie is—you guessed it—lay: “I lay down for an hour last night.” And the past tense of lay is laid: “I laid the book on the table.”
Bring vs. Take
Bring and take both describe transporting something or someone from one place to another, but the correct usage depends on the speaker’s point of view. Somebody brings something to you, but you take it to somewhere else: “Bring me the mail, then take your shoes to your room.” Just remember, if the movement is toward you, use bring; if the movement is away from you, use take.
Ironic vs. Coincidental
A lot of people get this wrong. If you break your leg the day before a ski trip, that’s not ironic—it’s coincidental (and bad luck). Ironic has several meanings, all of which include some type of reversal of what was expected. Verbal irony is when a person says one thing but clearly means another. Situational irony is when a result is the opposite of what was expected. O. Henry was a master of situational irony. In his famous short story The Gift of the Magi, Jim sells his watch to buy combs for his wife’s hair, and she sells her hair to buy a chain for Jim’s watch. Each character sold something precious to buy a gift for the other, but those gifts were intended for what the other person sold. That is true irony. If you break your leg the day before a ski trip, that’s coincidental.If you drive up to the mountains to ski, and there was more snow back at your house, that’s ironic.
Imply vs. Infer
To imply means to suggest something without saying it outright. Toinfer means to draw a conclusion from what someone else implies. As a general rule, the speaker/writer implies, and the listener/reader infers.
Nauseous vs. Nauseated
Nauseous has been misused so often that the incorrect usage is accepted in some circles. Still, it’s important to note the difference.Nauseous means causing nausea; nauseated means experiencing nausea. So, if your circle includes ultra-particular grammar sticklers, never say “I’m nauseous” unless you want them to be snickering behind your back.
Comprise vs. Compose
These are two of the most commonly misused words in the English language.Comprise means to include; compose means to make up. It all comes down to parts versus the whole. When you use comprise, you put the whole first: “A soccer game comprises (includes) two halves.” When you use compose, you put the pieces first: “Fifty states compose (make up) the United States of America.”
Farther vs. Further
Farther refers to physical distance, while further describes the degree or extent of an action or situation. “I can’t run any farther,” but “I have nothing further to say.” If you can substitute “more” or “additional,” usefurther.
Fewer vs. Less
Use fewer when you’re referring to separate items that can be counted; use less when referring to a whole: “You have fewer dollars, but lessmoney.”
Bringing it all together
English grammar can be tricky, and, a lot of times, the words that sound right are actually wrong. With words such as those listed above, you just have to memorize the rules so that when you are about to use them, you’ll catch yourself in the act and know for certain that you’ve written or said the right one.