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 placed a call with the service company on Friday and the elevator was repaired on Saturday. Hopefully the issue will not happen again. If it does, however, please send me an e-mail and I will ask a technician to come out again to re-examine it.
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’s 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.
1. 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.
2. 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.
Sample Response to Situation #1
I hope you have had a good weekend. This week will be another busy one as we have to get all the orders processed on time for the holiday season.
To this end, please try to conduct any personal business (non-emergency phone calls, e-mails) outside of work time, e.g. during your breaks or the lunch hour. This is a policy that I ask the whole department to follow in order to minimize distraction and maintain productivity. Also it’s important that all staff work until the official end of day (5 p.m.) as when we leave early, we place an undue burden on our colleagues who must stay to complete the unfinished business of the day.
Naturally, if there are any emergency situations that you need some time off for, please drop by my office to discuss it beforehand. My door is always open!
Thank you for your cooperation.
Sample Response to Situation #2
I hope you’ve been enjoying your break time.
As you know, the ESL industry is subject to the demands of student enrolment, which can vary session to session. Student satisfaction is a key metric in determining student enrolment, and ultimately the success of the college. In the feedback from your students, unfortunately I did find some recurring themes, particularly teacher-talk time and punctuality. As we discussed during our faculty meeting, we ask that our instructors play more of a moderator role in the classroom instead of that of a lecturer so that students have adequate time to participate and practice their language skills. We market our courses as student-centered, and therefore, it’s important that students feel they are the focus of the lessons. Unfortunately there were several comments from both of your classes indicating students did not feel they had adequate talk-time during class.
Also, punctuality is an important issue here at the college. Instructors do not only teach language, but also the standards and customs people must follow to have success in the Canadian workplace. You were late several times this session, which sets a poor example.
As a result, at this point in time we will not be able to offer you a class for next session. We hope that you can see this feedback as an opportunity for improvement. We have definitely enjoyed having you on board, and in your feedback, there were plenty of positive comments. Students particularly enjoyed the enthusiasm you brought to the classroom and your knowledge of local events and attractions.
Thank you for your efforts in the last session. We at ABC College wish you all the best in your teaching pursuits.
I hope you find some of these examples helpful. Feel free to pick and choose. For questions about tactful communication, please ask in our community forums.
All the best in your ESL or business English classes.
– Matthew Barton / Creator of Englishcurrent.com