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Writing Business English Emails: When and how to use small talk

When should you use small talk at the beginning of a business Email? Read the examples and comments below to better understand how and when to use small talk when you write a business email in English.

Small talk is sometimes used in conversations or in emails at the beginning.

  • Usually small talk isn’t necessary in a business email.

  • When writing a business email, it's fine to get to the point.

  • Unless you know the person very well, don’t make personal comments or inquire about the person’s family, job, etc.

TIP: If the writer starts emails with small talk, you do too. If not, get straight to the point

Read this email beginning and think about these questions. [answers below]

  1. What is their relationship? Do they know each other well?

  2. What topic does Tom use for small talk?

  3. He doesn’t use personal topics in small talk. What does this mean about their relationship?

  1. They are colleagues who know each other. Tom knows about Anna's new job.

  2. Tom uses work as a topic for small talk.

  3. He doesn't use a personal topic because he probably doesn't know Anna very well. They know each other, but not well enough to talk about family or personal matters as part of small talk.

Read this email from Tom to James. This is an example of an email that is too informal; too chatty. Even if Tom knows James very well, this email beginning is too informal. Tom's small talk is too formal for an email to a business colleague

Generally speaking, you don't need to use small talk in a business email unless you know your foreign colleague very well. Even if you do, just make a few comments. Don't waste a lot of time making small talk in an email. The best way to understand how much small talk to use is to check how much small talk your colleague uses in his emails to you.

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