• Jason Gower

10 Common Expressions for Your Business English Email Correspondence

Updated: Nov 24, 2018

If you have to write business e-mails in English then you have probably noticed that they are much less formal than traditional letters.

Idioms and expressions are so integrated into the language that most native English speakers are completely unaware of their ubiquitous presence in the language.

Perhaps you have experienced the miscommunication and frustration that this can cause for non-native speakers.

Since these parts of speech are not going away any time soon, by learning the most common of these expressions you can both avoid miscommunications and sound more natural in your use of the language.

In this article I’m going to share with you 10 common expressions that you will find in English e-mails.

While these expressions are not exclusively related to business, they tend to appear most often in this context.

Play it by ear

This expression is used in both written and verbal communication and usually towards the end of the e-mail or discussion.

When two people agree to a plan but are not exactly sure of the details of when, where and/or how they will move forward with that plan, they will end with the expression, “play it by ear.”

Example: I plan to arrive around 8, but I have to meet with a few investors before the conference so let’s just play it by ear.

To be swamped

This is another way for a person to express that they are very busy.

Example: I’m swamped this afternoon but I should have time to discuss the deal tomorrow morning.

COB (close of business) and EOD (end of day)

These expressions are usually used to refer to deadlines.

While their meaning is straightforward, always keep in mind the different time zones and definitions of “business day” that your correspondence partner might have.

In the U.S. it is generally accepted that the standard business day begins at 9am and ends at 5pm.

Therefore COB is usually assumed to be 5pm. These business hours vary by country but are usually similar.

EOD, on the other hand, is much more ambiguous as it is not clear if one is referring to the end of the business day or the literal end of day (12am).

If you have an important deadline and are not sure what the other person’s schedule is, ask them to clarify what COB or EOD means.

Example: I’ll have my legal team send the executed contract by COB tomorrow.

For your perusal

Another way to say “for your review.”

This expression is often used when including an attachment (contract, proposal, etc.) that you would like your correspondence partner to review.

Example: I have attached a copy of the contract for your perusal. Let me know if you have any questions.

Run (something) up the chain

Most companies have some sort of internal approval processes for transactions.

To run something up the chain means to get the necessary internal approvals for a transaction.

Example: Deal. 75,000 units at $49 each, end of May delivery. I just need to run it up the chain but I’ll confirm by noon on Friday.

Lmk (let me know) or Plmk (please let me know)

While all of the expressions on this list are informal, this one is especially so.

If you are writing to somebody external to your company or even internal that you don’t know very well, then it is best to write out the actual words.

Example: I saw your comments in the contract but I’m still not sure what you mean by contingent price. Plmk.

Drop me a line

This might be the most common expression on this list. It is used near the end of both e-mails and discussions as an alternate way to say “let me know” or “get in touch”.

Example: I am going to purchase this week. Drop me a line when you’re ready to discuss the details.

To be booked up

Similar to being swamped, if you are “booked up” then it means that you are very busy.

Whereas to “be swamped” is more general, however, to be “booked up” implies that your calendar is full.

Example: Sherry told me that she is booked up the rest of this week so I’m going to try to make an appointment with Stan instead.

To be In/out of the loop

Another very common expression written and verbal expression.

It means to be involved or not involved in some communication between two or more people.

Example: Sorry Mike, I was on holiday for the past three weeks so I’ve been out of the loop but I’ll check with Nancy to see what the status is.

Shoot me a message

This one simply means “send me a message”.

Example: I’m in New York this week but shoot me a message on Monday and we’ll get together when I’m back in the office.

There you have it. Ten of the most common expressions that you will experience while corresponding with English e-mails.

Have you seen these expressions before? Do you use them yourself? Are there others that you see more often? Tell me about it in the comments below.

About the Author

Jason Gower is the creator and instructor of Expand Life Business English courses. He has more than fifteen years of business experience and has learned both German and Spanish to a C2 level. Click to learn more about Expand Life Business English courses.

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