5 Common mistakes people make when writing business English emails 

And how to easily avoid them

Writing business emails in English is a must for many people who communicate with international clients, partners and colleagues. However, there are certain mistakes that Dutch speakers often make, which can impact the clarity and professionalism of their messages. In this article, we’ll cover 5 of the most common mistakes made when writing English business emails and provide tips on how to easily avoid them.

1. Incorrect use of English grammar and syntax

Dutch speakers may struggle with English grammar and syntax, leading to sentences that are difficult to understand. To avoid this, it’s crucial to use tools such as MS Editor and Grammarly to check your emails for grammatical errors before sending them. In addition, you can improve your English by reading the explanations provided by Grammarly for each mistake. A few examples of grammar and syntax errors people struggle with are:

  • – Incorrect subject-verb agreement: e.g. “The team are going to the meeting” instead of “The team is going to the meeting”
  • – Misuse of articles: e.g., “An client call me” instead of “A client called me”
  • – Misused prepositions: e.g., “Welcome in Holland” instead of “Welcome to Holland”

2. Improper use of idioms and sayings

English is full of idioms and sayings that can be confusing for non-native speakers. To avoid this, it’s important to stick to simple, straightforward language when writing business emails. If you’re not sure about a specific phrase, check it in a dictionary or ask a native speaker for clarification. Some examples of misused idioms are:

  • – Using idioms or expressions that are inappropriate in the context or are old-fashioned and no longer commonly used in English: e.g., “I’m over the moon” instead of “I’m very happy” in a business email
  • – Incorrect use of sayings : e.g., “It’s a piece of pie” or “It’s easy is as cake“, when the correct usage is “It’s a piece of cake” or “It’s easy as pie


3. Incorrect spelling and punctuation

Dutch speakers may struggle with English spelling and punctuation, leading to emails that are difficult to read. To avoid this, use tools such as MS Editor and Grammarly to check your emails for spelling and punctuation errors before sending them. Examples of common spelling and punctuation errors Dutch people tend to make are:

  • – Using a commonly confused word: “It will effect our bottom line” instead of “It will affect our bottom line”
  • – Misusing homophones: “Their going to the store” instead of “They’re going to the store”


4. Inconsistent use of tone

The tone of an email can greatly impact the way it’s received. Dutch speakers may struggle with maintaining a consistent tone throughout their emails or being overly direct, leading to confusion and misinterpretation. To avoid this, it’s important to think carefully about the tone you want to convey and to revise your emails to ensure they are consistently professional and courteous. Two common errors in tone that Dutch people make are: 

  • – Being too formal or stiff: For example, using overly formal greetings such as “Dear Sir/Madam” instead of more casual greetings like “Hello” or “Hi”, which are far more common greetings in English emails.
  • – Being too direct: For example, using direct language that can come across as confrontational or aggressive, such as saying “You’re wrong” instead of “I respectfully disagree.”


5. Lack of familiarity with English business terminology

Dutch speakers may not be familiar with English business terminology, leading to misunderstandings and confusion. To avoid this, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the terms and phrases commonly used in your industry. If you’re not sure about a specific term, ask a native speaker for clarification. Some often-confused general business terms that Nederlanders should be aware of are:

  • – “Solicitation” vs “Application”: In English, “solicitation” is an attempt to sell, usually in a demanding manner. This is why it is common to see “no soliciting” signs on the door of English- and American-owned businesses. It can also refer to the solicitation of drugs or sex for money, and “solicitation” is often associated with illegal activities in the US. In Dutch, the false cognate “sollicitatie” means to apply for a job or loan. Remember in English to never submit your “solicitation“, but rather your “application” to a potential employer.
  • – “Foresee” vs “Predict”: Both words are verbs that mean “to predict or anticipate something”, but “foresee” is used for a long-term prediction or a general expectation, while “predict” is used for a specific, short-term prediction. Dutch has a word “voorzien” which has the same meaning as “foresee”, but a similar word “voorspellen” is a better translation of “predict”.

Still struggling to write emails in English? Consider working directly with a Flowently native English trainer to improve your business English writing. We can help you avoid common mistakes, master business terminology, and develop the writing skills you need to communicate effectively in a global business environment. What are you waiting for? Find a tutor today!

By: Krys Copeland

Published by: Flowently

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