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How to write a business email in French

How to write a business email in French

When it comes to writing a business email in French, it is essential to start with the basics. In French, email is referred to as courriel, a combination of courrier (mail) and électronique (electronic). While you can also use the term e-mail, as is common in the rest of Europe, opting for courriel adds a formal and precise touch to your emails.
In the realm of professional correspondence, precision plays a pivotal role, and observing certain formalities is a mark of courtesy and respect. Let's explore the steps required to compose a flawless French email, ensuring both form and content align with professionally translated business texts.

How to start an email in French

When embarking on the journey of composing an email in French, the first step is to craft a succinct subject line that clearly conveys the email's purpose. Once that's established, you can delve into the body of the text. If you're unsure about how to start an email in French, consider that openings tend to follow a similar pattern to that of an English email.
Starting your email will typically involve a formal greeting, especially if you're corresponding with someone for the first time or engaging in a business context. In a formal setting, such as professional communication, there are several options to consider:

  • if you know the recipient’s title or designation, you can open with: Monsieur le Directeur, Madame la Présidente, Monsieur le Maire;
  • if you know the recipient’s name, you can start your email with: Monsieur Martin or begin with a courteous greeting like Bonjour Madame.

Writing and structuring your French email

Following the initial greeting, it is crucial to proceed with clarity and conciseness. The best way to start a French email is to promptly explain the purpose of your email. If the message's content becomes convoluted or overly lengthy, there's a risk of it being ignored.
It is imperative to maintain a formal and professional tone throughout the email, refraining from abbreviations and colloquial language. In addition, unless you share a close rapport with the recipient, employing the polite form “vous, equivalent to using “Lei” in Italian, is essential when writing a professional email in French. For instance, “Je vous écris pour...” (“I am writing to you in order to...”).
To ensure clarity and effectiveness, we recommend dividing the email into paragraphs, each dedicated to a specific topic or point. This enhances readability and comprehension.
When it comes to writing a business email in French, certain customary expressions can prove valuable. The phrase “Je me permets de” is commonly used in formal emails as it introduces the message politely. For instance, “Je me permets de vous contacter afin d'obtenir...” and “Je me permets de vous transmettre...” translate to “I am writing to you in order to request/send you…”.
On the other hand, when the email follows a prior conversation or exchange, including over the phone, the expression “Comme convenu…” is used to refer to the agreement or understanding. If you wish to acknowledge that you have received a document, invoice, or attachment, simply use the phrase “J'accuse réception de...” to confirm receipt.
Be careful when addressing any errors. For instance, when you're unsure about how to write an email in French to highlight an error, omission, or inaccuracy without causing offence, you can use the phrase “Sauf erreur de ma part” or “De notre part”. This approach is similar to the one used in a formal email in English when using expressions like “I could be wrong but...” or “unless I am mistaken...”. In French, you can employ the same level of delicacy by using “Sauf erreur de ma part”.

How to sign off an email in French

When composing business emails in foreign languages, it is common to encounter moments of uncertainty, especially regarding steps that feel natural in English. If you're wondering how to end an email in French, rest assured that there are several possibilities, similar to English. The conclusion of an email in French carries significant importance, as it provides an opportunity to express gratitude and provide contact details for further communication.
Some classic phrases to end an email in French are “Je vous remercie de votre attention” or “Bien à vous”, which means "Best regards”.
The matter of polite greetings in French emails can be a bit nuanced. If you're writing formally to someone whose specific professional position is unknown to you or sending a generic email to an institution, administration, or department, you should opt for a more respectful greeting like “Respectueusement” or “Salutations respectueuses”.
If you know the exact name of the recipient, you can conclude your first email with the French phrases “Salutations distinguées” or “Sincères salutations”. As your email exchanges become more frequent and a rapport is established, polite greetings in French emails can progress to “Cordiales salutations”.
Obviously, when signing off an email in French, it is important to precede your greetings with a phrase like “Je vous remercie par avance de votre réponse” or “Thank you in advance”, which encourages further communication. Another option is “Je reste à votre disposition pour tout renseignement complémentaire”, expressing your availability to provide additional information.
Finally, greetings and requests can be combined into a single formal and courteous phrase: "Dans l'attente d'une réponse favorable de votre part, je vous prie d'agréer, Monsieur Berton, l'expression de mes sincères salutations”.

Redazione Eurotrad

November 27, 2023

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