Finnish writing style can be very direct with expressions such as: ”Do please remember to...”;”Do it properly” or ”On time”. But what if you send a business email in English to someone who doesn’t understand Finnish style? Is there a risk that you are unintentionally being rude - impolite in English, even if you add a please?
Look at these two versions of an email:
Thank you for your message and attachment. It was labelled draft section 6 - was that it?
I hope you’re not using the old version. What’s your problem with this updated version?
Don’t forget the formatting for the text in section 6. Make sure section 6 is done properly and on time. You better not attach section 6 to 7. Put it in a separate file.
You will be doing section 8 too? If you can’t do it there are plenty of others who can. Tell me please if you will be doing it. I actually need to know very soon.
Section 6 is almost done. I will wait for section 7.
Have a good weekend,
Thank you for your message and attachment. I believe the attachment was a draft of section 6 – is that right? I just wanted to double check.
Can I check – are you using the new version of the programme? That is the version we will use for this edition. I understand that you are having some issues with the updated version – what particular features are causing difficulty? Do let me know and we can try to resolve them. I must also quickly remind you that the text should be formatted in section 6 and that sections 6 and 7 must be in separate files. Could you make sure that section 6 is covered very thoroughly and submitted on deadline? This project is very time sensitive. Thanks.
Would you have time to also cover section 8? That would be much appreciated but we fully understand if you are not available. Could you let me know as soon as possible? Then we can make other arrangements if you are not free.
Thank you for your efforts on Section 6, which is almost ready. I look forward to receiving Section 7 and in the meantime I wish you a very good weekend,
Vieno meant the first email to be friendly and helpful, but to John, a native English speaker, it comes across as very rude. Vieno’s friendly opening and closing sound strange contrasted with the rude tone Vieno uses when addressing John.
What language did Vieno use that was rude and how could she have expressed herself (as she wished) politely? Look at the differences in version 2.
The same information, politely expressed will get a much better response from John and is more likely to keep up a better working relationship. If we compare our first email and our second one: we can see politeness really doesn’t take much more time but can make a big difference in your business relationships.
For more information, see our guide to politeness in English.