© Gabrielle Jones 2016               



Professional Emails - In Tray Exercise


•  Introduce/review and practice using standard email phrases
•  Discuss opinions on good/bad emailing practice
•  Identify how the use of abbreviations, jargon and smileys in business communication

influences understanding

Level: B1-C2

Time: 90 minutes


1 copy per participant of page 1 to 3

1 copy of pages 4 to 6, cut up, per pair/small group


1.  Lead in – participants discuss questions in pairs or small groups

2.  Reading task – working in pairs or small groups, distribute one set of messages

(pages 5-7) each. Ask participants to read the instructions for task one, then read the
messages. When they have all read each message, discuss the questions and then
feed back to the whole group – the goal is to prioritise the messages and begin
thinking about how to respond. A secondary goal is to highlight how use of jargon
and abbreviations can hinder good communication (specifically look at the text
message from John to Thomas!)

3.  Task two: In groups, participants take an equal number of messages each and find

examples of the language in task two in their own messages. When they have
finished they should compile a list with their partners. In case of confusion, tell them
that there are 3 examples for each type of expression contained within the 7
messages. When they are finished show them that page 3 is a record of all the
emailing and communication language used in all the messages.

4.  Practice: split the class into pairs. Firstly all participants write email A, using the

language stipulated in the rubric. When they are finished, they should swap their
email with a partner. The partner should use rubric B to write a reply. While
participants are writing, monitor and take note on the accuracy of their emails: good
examples of tricky language, examples where improvements could be made.

5.  End the session with a feedback session.

© Gabrielle Jones 2016               



Professional Emails - In Tray Exercise

Lead in:

Discuss these questions with a partner:

1.  When is it best to write an email and when is it better to make a phone call?

2.  How comfortable do you feel using abbreviations and smileys when writing emails?

3.  Do you usually use small talk in emails? Why? Why not?

4.  Do native speakers write better emails than non-native speakers?

5.  When was the last time you a) wrote/received a letter? b) wrote/received an email?

6.  What are the main differences between letters and emails?

7.  What makes a good email?

Task one:

It’s Monday 7 May. You work for the Research and Development department of Modern

Systems, a company which manufactures technical machines and equipment. Your boss,

Thomas Bates, is ill and you will have to take over his work for the next 5 days.

Look at the emails, telephone calls and text messages which Thomas has received. Work in

groups and put the correspondence in the order in which you would deal with it. Discuss

these questions:


Who is the message from? Internal? External? Customer? Colleague? Supplier?


Is there a deadline? Is there any flexibility?


What impact does the work have on the organization?


Can you delegate any tasks to other colleagues?


What’s the best way to deal with each message?

Task two:

Find standard phrases in the messages and write them next to each category:

•  Small talk

•  Referring to previous contact

•  Giving good news

•  Giving bad news

•  Offering help

•  Making requests

•  Apologizing

•  Referring to future contact

© Gabrielle Jones 2016               



Email phrases

Small Talk

How are things going at your end?

How’s business?

I hope you’re having a good week so far.

Referring to previous contact

Thanks for your call yesterday.

It was nice to see you at the fair last week.

I hope you had a good journey back to...

Giving good news

I’m pleased to be able to tell you that...

I’m delighted to tell you that...

You’ll be pleased to hear that...

Giving bad news


I’m afraid (that)...

I regret to tell you that...

Offering help

Do you want me to...?

Would you like me to...?

Should I...?

Making requests

Could I ask you to …?

Would it be possible for you to…?

Could you…?


I apologise (for any inconvenience caused).

I’m sorry about...
Sorry, but...

Referring to future contact

I look forward to receiving your response.

I look forward to hearing from you

Speak to you soon.


© Gabrielle Jones 2016               




Over to you!



A: Write an outgoing email to a partner. Include the following:

•  Small talk
•  Referring to previous contact
•  Giving good news
•  Making requests


B: Respond to an incoming email. Include the following:

•  Giving bad news
•  Offering help
•  Apologizing
•  Referring to future contact


© Gabrielle Jones 2016               



Messages – cut up and distribute one group of messages between two to three learners




From: Frank Jones 
To: Thomas Bates 
Date: Sunday 6 May 
Subject: Faulty electrics – shut down 
Unfortunately one of the machines that we bought last week has broken down – we’ve 
had to shut down production.  I’m afraid that we will either need immediate support 
from you or we will have to cancel our contract and look for another supplier – could 
you give me a call ASAP? 
From: Jill Hadfield – Training Solutions 
To: Thomas Bates 
Date: Wednesday 2 May 
Subject: Customer Service Seminar 
Good morning Thomas 
How are things going at your end?  Thanks for your call yesterday.  I’m pleased to be 
able to tell you that we do have capacity for a training course for your staff on 21 
May.  As this is quite short notice, could I ask you to confirm that you will definitely be 
booking the training by no later than 8 May?  Let me know if you’ve got any 
Speak to you soon, 

© Gabrielle Jones 2016               




From: 0150 90913925 

To: 0161 7736252 

Hi Thomas 

Sorry but the conference rm is booked L Our mtg will have 2 B postponed ‘til 
we can find a free room, poss. tmrw.  Give me a call, John 



From: Piotr Sikorsky 
To: Thomas Bates 

Date: Monday 7 May 
Subject: Order change - urgent 

Dear Thomas 

I hope you had a good journey back to the UK last week.  Things haven’t been 
going well here and I regret to tell you that our internal R&D department have 
asked that you make some last minute changes to the machines you are 

sending us.  It’s complicated so do you want me to set up a telcon for this 
afternoon?  I know this is going to be problematic so I apologise for any 
inconvenience caused. 

I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible. 
Best wishes 

“Hi Thomas! Nadia here from Stromberg.  It’s 10:15 on Monday morning.  How’s 

business? It was nice to see you at the fair last week and I wanted to follow up what 

we discussed about the new brochures.  Would you like me to set up a meeting for 
the beginning of next month?  Would it be possible for you to give us half a day? 

There are quite a lot of points to cover.  Give me a call back – 0030 56643241.  Bye 

for now!” 

© Gabrielle Jones 2016               



“ Good morning Thomas – Ian here.  It’s Monday – 9:30.  I hope you’re having a 

good week so far.  I’m afraid that I’m going to have to cancel our meeting this 

afternoon – we’ve had a bit of an emergency here, I’ll tell you about it later.  Should 
I let the rest of the team know or do you want to contact them?  I’m sorry about the 

short notice – I’ll give you a call later. Bye.” 


From: Info@engineeringoptions.de 

To: Thomas Bates 
Date: Monday 30 April 

Subject: New opportunities – new challenges 
Dear Mr Bates 

You’ll be pleased to hear that we are holding our fifth conference for 
Engineering Leaders in Madrid, Spain this year.  Leaders in the field of 

Engineering will have the opportunity to meet and discuss the challenges they 
are dealing with and the new opportunities being presented in their industries.  
I’m delighted to tell you that Steve Hobson of International Engineering 

magazine will be our keynote speaker this year.   
To book your place on the conference just click on the link below: 





The deadline for early bird registration is August 1. 
I look forward to receiving your response 

Jerry Stevenson 
President of Engineering Options