Writing emails – a Guide

Get the reader’s attention. No one will act on your e-mail if they don’t read it first. Address just one reader, if possible. People don’t pay attention to form letters (listen up: customer service people) and they don’t pay much attention to e-mails addressed to a long list of people.  Readers tend to assume someone else on the list will take care of your request, and they will shirk responsibility.  If you can, direct the e-mail to just one person at a time and paste your message on each e-mail individually.  This is especially important when providing the agenda for a meeting.  If you need to keep everyone in the loop, you can send your e-mail to a number of people, but pay close attention to the next point.

Use a salutation. People love their names – hearing them, reading them. Most business e-mails don’t start with “Dear” anymore, but you should always use the reader’s name in a salutation at the beginning of the e-mail.  Choose a first name or a Mr., Ms., or Mrs. (yup, some people still prefer Mrs.) depending on your relationship with the reader.  Check the spelling of the name. Check it again.  This rule applies even in e-mails addressed to several people.

Fill in the subject line. Even when you know the person well, fill in the subject line. Leaving the subject line blank signals that you believe your name alone should stimulate the recipient to pore over your e-mail.  That assumption may well be incorrect.  Take the time to get the reader’s interest with a specific subject line.

NO JOKES, not even forwarded jokes, ever. Although jokes do attract attention, humour is so often misunderstood that it’s just not worth the risk. And you’ll be just as responsible as the original sender if you forward them.

Lastly, keep the actual e-mail to one screen in length. With the glut of e-mail messages, readers swiftly make decisions about what they will deal with and what they will delete.  Condense your main message to the length one screen displays, even though that will take you longer than simply running on and on. Your reward will be that people will read what you write


Zara – a quick change inventory

Most big fashion retailers have to guess what their customers will want in nine months’ time so they can start making it now. But product cycle times are much shorter at Zara, a Spanish fashion company with 519 stores in 46 countries. It takes Zara just three weeks to go from designing a new product to selling it.

Zara is a complete supply chain, from start to finish. Design, manufacture, and distribution are integrated and they take place in-house. Zara’s competitors outsource all the manufacturing and use cheaper foreign labour, but Zara makes half its clothes itself.

It has 23 highly automated factories in Spain where the fabrics are cut and dyed by robots. Most finished products are only in its warehouse for a few hours. It doesn’t store clothes. It moves them.

Zara can respond quickly to market trends. At the end of every working day, the store managers report on sales to the headquarters in Spain. They give feedback about what customers like, and this information goes back to the design department right away. Product lines can be discarded or altered and new lines can be created immediately.

The company keeps costs down by keeping inventories low. New products are delivered to the stores twice a week and lead times are short. Zara can receive and ship an order almost as fast as a teenage customer can change his or her mind, and that’s very important in the world of fashion. It’s what keeps Zara ahead of its competitors. Rapid design, just-in-time production, and fast stock turnover are the keys to Zara’s success.


Jobs – Present Simple Practice (speaking + vocabulary)

What’s the job? Read about different job positions. What do you do? What’s your position like?

Architect Technician

  • Works for a construction company.
  • Designs buildings, produces plans, specifications, and drawings.
  • Negotiates with builders and inspects construction work.

Field Service Engineer

  • Works for an office equipment manufacturer.
  • Visits customers’ sites and repairs and maintains
  • Spends a lot of time driving from place to place.

Software Engineer

  • Works for a bank.
  • Writes, tests, and debugs code.
  • Updates security features and troubleshoots.
  • Is responsible for a project team.

Help Desk Technician

  • Provides technical support.
  • Solves customers’ problems over the phone.
  • Works night shifts.

Warehouse Manager

  • Works for a paper company.
  • Receives shipments and checks quantities.
  • Keep records of
  • Manages a database.
  • Works for a credit card company.

Quality Controller

  • Works for a pharmaceutical company.
  • Collects and examines product
  • Analyses data and writes reports.

2 Look at the underlined words in the job descriptions in the exercise 1. Find the word which means:

  • bargains, reaches agreement by discussion
  • parts of the working day
  • puts in the latest information
  • stocks of goods and materials
  • goods that are transported
  • finds and corrects faults and problems
  • keeps in good working order
  • specimens, small quantities of a product that shows what the rest is like
  • looks at something closely to make sure it’s OK
  • examines something carefully to understand it and explain it.

3 In your opinion, on which of these positions people…:

1 are the most and the least busy?
2 use computers the most?
3 work the longest hours?
4 don’t need to wear special clothing?
5 sometimes work outside?
6 meet lots of different people?
7 need the most qualifications?
8 make the most money?
9 have the best and the worst jobs? why?

4 Speaking practice. Work with a partner. Take turns to describe the jobs of people you know, for example, your boss, your husband/wife, your brother etc.

   A What does your wife do?
   B She’s a laboratory technician. She works at a chemical company. She tests and analyses samples. She…

Vocabulary Practice 1

1. Fill in the blanks using the given words:

debts    interest   loss    loan    profit

  1. If you want to buy a car, you’ll need to take a  bank _________ in advance.
  2. I couldn’t pay off my _________, so I asked my father for some money.
  3. Every company can make a big ___________ if they work well.
  4. Mark put some money on his saving account, so he has a 1% __________ from his savings.
  5. We had such a bad advertising campaign that we made a huge ____________ and lost some of our clients.

2. MAKE or DO? Fill in. Then, use the phrases in the sentences.

_____ money

______a favour

___ a decision

____ extra work

__ a suggestion

____ nothing

  1. If I have to ________________ about something, I consult my colleagues and we always decide together.
  2. Sorry, can I _________________? You should make an analysis of the market and then make a product list.
  3. We made a big loss in Spain last year but we _________________ to fix the damage. We just focused on Italian market more.
  4. Some people ______________, some people spend money. You can’t do both.
  5. If you want to earn more, you must _______________!
  6. Laura, can you ________________? I have to leave earlier today, can you finish my project, please?


3. Complete the paragraph with the words from the box:

Salary        Benefits          Experience      Interviews     Application form         Vacancy            Qualifications    


We have a (1) ……………………… for an administration officer to work in our busy Sheffield office. If you have a minimum of two years (2)…………………………. in this sort of work and enjoy being part of a team, send for an (3) …………………………………… to the address below. (4) ………………… is in the region of & 12,000, depending on (5) ……………………… (Those with university degrees may receive more.) Other (6) ……………………….. include the use of the company gym and subsidised meals in the staff restaurant. (7) …………………………… will be held on November 5th and 6th at our London office.