Language Focus: Comprehending tactful and diplomatic e-mails, giving constructive criticism, being assertive
English Level: Intermediate, Upper-Intermediate
Worksheet Download: tactful-diplomatic-email-examples.docx
Sample Emails for Writing Tactfully and Diplomatically
Communicating tactfully and indirectly is an invaluable soft skill that some immigrants lack. I teach tactful communication nearly every session at my college. Below are some e-mail samples and comprehension questions I use in class. They focus on writing tactfully, being assertive, and giving constructive criticism. Other than the e-mails below, I recommend the following resources:
- Chapter 3 – Social Interaction from LINC Classroom Activities Volume 2
- Writing Exercises for Tone, Tact, and Diplomacy on English Current
- Being Tactful Speaking Activities on English Current
- How to Give Constructive Criticism (6 Helpful Tips) at Personalexcellence.co
- How to Avoid an Angry Email Meltdown (see the excellent sample email at the end of the post)
Email Samples – Tactful Writing
Part A: Read the below email and its reply. Then answer the comprehension questions that follow.
Date: Friday, May 20, 2016
Subject: NOT AGAIN
This is Karen Dias from unit 811. Can u explain to me why the elevators are always broken down? Every time I’m in a hurry, they are out of service. I pay $600 a month in service fees to live in this building. Obviously I need to be able to get in and out of my unit.
Fix this ASAP.
Date: Monday, May 23, 2016
Subject: Elevator #2 Issue
I’m sorry to hear that the elevator was out of service yet again on Friday. The problem was with the second elevator, which seems to have had a few issues lately.
I understand this can be frustrating and I appreciate your patience with this matter.
- What is the relationship between the Karen and Robert?
- What is Karen’s issue?
- True or False: Karen’s rent is $600.
- Criticize Karen’s email. Identify 3 issues (problems) with her e-mail. (3 points)
- How would you describe the tone in Karen’s email?
- In one sentence, what has/did Robert done/do to address the issue?
- True or False: The issue may be resolved now.
- What strategies did Robert use to make his e-mail diplomatic? Identify two things. (2 points)
|To: Tina Sampson|
From: Bernice White
Where is the data I asked you for? You said you’d send to me by yesterday, but you didn’t.
If u don’t send to me, my report will also be late, which will be your fault.
Send it ASAP.
- What is the relationship between the Bernice and Tina?
- What is Bernice’s issue?
- Criticize the mail. Identify 3 issues (problems) with her e-mail. (3 points)
- How would you describe Bernice’s tone in her email?
Subject: Ryerson data
Have you compiled the data for the Ryerson project yet? I was looking forward to finding it in my mailbox this morning. However, I have yet to receive it.
I know this is a hectic time for everyone in the office, but I need this data as soon as possible (by the end of the day). If I don’t get the data, then there’ll be no data to show in the graphs of my report, which will reflect poorly on us and our department as a whole.
Please send me a reply when you receive this message.
- Analyze Bernice email. Identify 3 strategies Bernice uses to make her communication tactful yet assertive. (3 points)
- How would you describe her tone?
|To: Wu Wei|
From: Rogers Customer Support
Subject: Slow download speeds
I am sorry to hear that you’re having trouble with your connection speed. I’ve checked your account, and you are currently on the 20-megabit cable plan. As you may be aware, cable connections are susceptible to slower speeds at peak hours (generally from 7 to 10 pm on weeknights). This can often be the cause of slower download and upload speeds.
The next time you are experiencing an issue, please feel free to call our customer support line at 1-800-323-2222 for assistance. One thing I might suggest is upgrading to our 40-megabit package, which will double your connection speed. If you’d like to upgrade, our customer support centre can also assist you in that.
I realize that wait times can sometimes be long on the support line. If you’d prefer that we call you, just let me know your contact number and when a good time to call would be (9 am – 9 pm), and we’d be glad to contact you directly.
Again, I apologize for the inconvenience.
Rogers Technical Support / email@example.com / 1-800-323-2222
- What is the relationship between the Wu and Sue?
- What was Wu’s issue?
- True / False / No Information: Wu could not get through to the technical support line.
- True / False / No Information: The representative suggests that Wu change his plan.
- Analyze Sue’s email. Identify 3 strategies she uses to make her communication tactful and diplomatic.
Extra Email Sample
How is everything going today? I see that you are so busy these days and it looks like you are working hard til the evening. I really appreciate it. However, I didn’t get the spreadsheet that you promised to send me by Thursday, and today is Friday. My report is due Monday; this might make my report a little late.
What I can do for you to make your job easier?
All the best,
Part B. Expressions for E-mail.
- You are e-mailing a co-worker, Barbara Walters. Which salutation(s) is/are appropriate?
- Dear Ms. Barbara,
- Dear Mrs. Barbara,
- Dear Barbara,
- Dear Walters
- Hello Barbar.
- You are sending an e-mail to your team. You’d like to acknowledge your co-worker, John, because he gave a sales presentation that helped your company get a new customer. Which sentence could you include in your message?
- John did an excellent job on his sales presentation.
- We gave an excellent sales presentation.
- An excellent sales presentation was given.
- I gave John an excellent sales presentation.
Giving Constructive Criticism and Tactful Communication: Writing Prompts
Situation #1: You are a department manager. You have a new employee name Rene LeBlanc. You’ve noticed that Rene has been spending a lot of time at the office doing personal things (talking to his wife on the phone for long periods of time, checking his personal emails, etc.). Also, he has left work early a few times. Write a diplomatic e-mail message to Rene about these issues.
Situation #2: You are the manager at an ESL school in Toronto. You have been employing a teacher, Lilly Brown, on a contract basis for the past year. However, you have decided not to renew Lilly’s contract for the next session. Lilly was often late for class, and her students said that she spoke too much in class (instead of letting them speak). Write a diplomatic e-mail to Lilly and inform her of the news. Give constructive criticism.
I hope you find some of these examples helpful. Feel free to pick and choose.
All the best in your ESL or business English classes.
– Matthew Barton / Creator of Englishcurrent.com