Engels: e-mail en brief

Worstelt u wel eens met het opstellen van een Engelse e-mail of brief? Welke aanhef kunt u het beste gebruiken, of hoe sluit u uw brief af? Toby Adams, vertaler bij Taalcentrum-VU, helpt u op weg – in het Engels uiteraard.

Getting off on the right foot

In English, it’s customary to begin with your reason for writing. Here
are some sentences you could use to begin your e-mail:

  • I am writing to enquire about …
  • I write regarding …
  • I am writing to inform you that …
  • Thank you for your letter of 8 June.
  • I am writing in reply to your letter of 8 June, …
  • With reference to your letter of 8 June, I …
  • Thank you for your letter regarding …
  • In English, it’s quite normal to begin an e-mail/letter with the word “I” (but of course, you don’t have to!).

Sending an attachment

‘Attached’ or ‘enclosed’? E-mails have attachments; letters (of the old-fashioned, paper variety) have enclosures. Here, to ‘enclose’ something means, literally, to insert it into an envelope. These days, you’ll probably need the word ‘attachment’ more often than the word ‘enclosure’.

  • Please find attached…
  • I attach … to this e-mail.
  • I am delighted to be able to send you…, which you will find attached to this mail.
  • In the attachment, you will find…

In English, the word ‘hereby’ is decidedly old-fashioned. You may come across it in Dickens but it looks out of place in your e-mails. You will still hear the word ‘hereby’ used in a legal context, most notably in the phrase ‘I hereby declare that…’. Avoid translating ‘Hierbij stuur ik u……’ as ‘Hereby I send you…’ (and the same goes for ‘herewith’!). Example: ‘Thank you for your email of 13 March 2011. Please find attached the report you requested.’

The finishing touches

Here are some sentences you could use to finish your e-mail:

  • If you require any further information, feel free to contact me.
  • Should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
    I look forward to your reply.
  • I look forward to hearing from you.
  • We look forward to a successful working relationship in the future.
  • We would appreciate your immediate attention to this matter.
  • Many thanks in advance for your advice.

In English, it’s not usual to finish a mail by saying ‘We hope to have informed you sufficiently.’ A nice alternative would be words to the effect of: ‘If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to ask.’ This doesn’t mean quite the same thing, of course, but is certainly a positive way to finish your mail.

Heart-felt salutations

How to address your recipient appropriately:

  • When the recipient’s name is unknown to you (formal):
    Dear Sirs, … Yours faithfully,
    Dear Sir or Madam, … Yours faithfully,
    (Note the use of capital letters)
    (= Geachte heer/mevrouw, … Met vriendelijke groeten,)
  • When you know the recipient’s name (formal):
    Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms Hanson, … Yours sincerely,
    (= Geachte heer/mevrouw Hanson, … Met vriendelijke groeten,)
  • ‘Mrs’, ‘Miss’ or ‘Ms’?
    ‘Ms’ (plus surname) is used to address a woman. In fact, many women now prefer to be addressed as ‘Ms’, rather than the more traditional ‘Mrs’ (for married women) or ‘Miss’ (for unmarried women). ‘Ms’ can be used for both married and unmarried women.
  • When addressing a colleague (informal) or friend:
    Dear Jack, … Best wishes/Kind regards,
    Hi Jack, … All the best,
    These days, it’s increasingly common to use less formal salutations in e-mails. In fact, both ‘Yours faithfully’ and ‘Yours sincerely’ are seen less often in e-mails, although they are still widely used in letters. But it’s really a question of how formal you want your e-mail to be.
  • Addressing more than one recipient:
    Dear all, …
    Dear colleagues, …

  • Met dank aan Taalcentrum-VU voor het beschikbaar stellen van deze tips. Het Taalcentrum-VU is een zelfstandig taal- en trainingsbureau dat opereert vanuit de Vrije Universiteit en vertalingen, taal- en communicatietrainingen en tekstredactie verzorgt voor overheid en bedrijfsleven.


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