Writing an outstanding email is easier said than done. Why? Well, since email is used by everyone from friends, colleagues, moms, and dads, to companies, professionals, and nonprofessionals, the rules and norms are bound to become blurred.
How do you greet the recipient? How do you sign off? What do you say in between? And, most importantly, are you allowed to use emojis?
What’s even more complicated is that email etiquette varies between countries and cultures. That’s why we have gathered everything you need to know about Swedish email etiquette in one single article. Enjoy!
The Swedes might seem rather informal to those who come from cultures where there is a clear distinction between formal and informal language and expressions.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Sweden introduced the so-called “Du-reformen” (the thou-reform), which was the process of popularizing the informal second-person singular pronoun «du», meaning “you”.
Before the reform, Swedes used surnames, titles, and occasionally the formal second-person plural, «Ni», to address other people. Due to the reform, the usage of the informal «du» became mainstream, and «Ni» disappeared almost completely. Nowadays the younger generations may address older people as «Ni» out of courtesy, but it is never considered necessary.
The Swedes are thus a rather informal people when it comes to writing emails, but there are nevertheless certain customs and phrases that you need to know to start your email the right way. It all depends on whether you’re writing a formal or informal email. Let’s check out all the phrases you can use when writing an email to a Swede.“Hej” («Hello»)
Starting a Swedish email with a simple “Hej” is perfectly fine. It’s a great and simple way to start an email when you’re writing to friends, colleagues, professors, or even to your boss.
If you want to add a personal touch, you can also write “Hej, First name”. Adding the recipient’s name gives the email a warmer tone right from the start. However, be sure to not misspell the name because no one likes to see their name spelled incorrectly. (More about Swedish names)“Kära [Förnamn]” («Dear [First name]»)
The phrase “Kära” (or “Dear”) is most used between acquaintances but not between close friends, family, or colleagues. To Swedes, “Kära” is rather formal and should be reserved for formal relations.“Bästa [Förnamn]” («Dear [First name]»)
The Swedish word “Bästa” lacks a direct English equivalent, as it can be translated as “best”. When you use “Bästa” to start an email, it’s considered to carry the same meaning as “Dear”. This phrase is nowadays viewed as a formal greeting and is used to show respect. You can use this greeting when you’re sending an email to someone you have never met and who is of great importance.“Bästa [Yrkestitel]” («Dear [Title of profession]»)
This might seem peculiar to some. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, it was common to address people using a greeting phrase together with their profession. The concept of addressing someone by using their profession instead of their first or last name is still perfectly acceptable but highly formal.
For instance, you may start your email with: “Bästa domare” (“Dear Judge”) or “Bästa lärare” (“Dear teacher”). It’s also possible to include the recipient’s last name in these phrases. You may write “Bästa domare Nilsson” (“Dear Judge Nilsson”) or “Bästa lärare Paulsson” (“Dear teacher Paulsson”).“Goddag, god morgon eller god kväll” («good day, good morning or good evening»)
It’s also perfectly fine to use the time of day as a basis for your greeting. However, using only “Goddag” to greet someone in an email can come off as rude, depending on how well you know the recipient.
If you have been in contact with the recipient earlier and you know each other (on some level), then using a simple “Goddag” is perfectly fine. However, if you don’t know the recipient, it would be more appropriate to write “Goddag, Eva”, for instance.“Hej alla” («Hello everybody»)
When addressing several people at the same time, this phrase is a safe bet. “Hej alla” can be used between friends and colleagues or by the boss to address members of his or her staff—it applies to any situation.
In Sweden, it’s generally easier to end an email than to start it. Why? Well, because most Swedes use one single catch-all phrase to end their email. Naturally, however, there are variations for every occasion. Below you will find every phrase you could possibly need to end your Swedish emails in the right way.“Vänliga hälsningar” («best regards»)
This is by far the most common way to sign off an email in Swedish. It’s simple, friendly, and can be used in both formal and informal emails.“Med vänligar hälsningar” («sincerely»)
“Med vänliga hälsningar” is a valediction that carries more warmth than the one above. Translated literally, it means “with kind regards” and is thus used to express cordiality. This phrase is also often shortened to “Mvh”—but the abbreviation is never used in formal emails.“Varma hälsningar” («warm regards»)
Use this phrase only with people you know well. It can be deemed too affectionate if you say “varma hälsningar” to someone you haven’t met.“Bästa hälsningar” («best wishes»)
If you get tired of “vänliga hälsningar”, you can use this phrase instead. It’s professional yet appropriately warm, and it can be used in formal as well as informal emails.“Allt gott” («be well»)
“Allt gott” is an expression borrowed from German and means “be well”. It can come off as too curt if used in a formal email, so make sure to only use it with people you know.
If we go beyond salutations and valedictions, there are plenty more useful phrases that you can use in your Swedish emails to make them sound sophisticated. Here are a few examples:
Of course, not every email must (or should) be serious and sophisticated. When it comes to email communication, there’s lots of room for funny and unserious emails, too. To get you started, here are a few phrases you can use:
Now you have a beginning and an end, and that’s great! But what should you do with everything in between? Scandinavians are generally neat and organized, and therefore you should never send them a messy email. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when writing an email to a Swede.
Write a relevant subject line: everybody’s inbox is a mess, period. A subject line should therefore be clear, concise, and accurate to avoid any confusion regarding the content or objective of the email.
Choose the appropriate salutation: when meeting in real life, you only have a few seconds to give the right impression. When it comes to email, you only have one line. So, choose the salutation wisely.
Body of text: here’s the main meat of your email. In this section, you should be clear with the specific purpose of the email, and the text should get straight to the point. Remember: Scandinavians are the kings of minimalism, so be concise.
Closing remark: it’s generally a good idea to end the email with an encouraging statement or a question to make sure that your conversation moves forward. For instance, you may write: “If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reply” or “I’m looking forward to receiving your proposal tomorrow!”.
Valediction: when signing off, you should make sure to use an appropriate valediction that is in line with the tone of the email and your relationship with the recipient.
The question of whether emojis belong in emails has caused some debate since people seem to have very strong feelings about this question. Some people say it’s unprofessional to use emojis, and others say that emojis make emails more fun to read.
Whether or not you may use emojis when writing an email to a Swede depends on the context. To make sure that you’re not making a fool out of yourself, you should first sit back and examine what your relationship with the recipient looks like. How close are you? Is the email in question a formal or an informal one? What tone do I want to set?
Here are three golden rules:
If you want a job in Sweden, then writing a superb cover letter is a must. Luckily, it’s not difficult at all to write a strong and spectacular cover letter—or “personligt brev”, as they say in Swedish. All you have to do is:
Start on a personal note: never start a Swedish cover letter with phrases such as “to whom it may concern” since most Swedes would find it nonchalant. Instead, address the cover letter to the person you’re writing to. If you can’t find their name, you may use their job title instead, such as: “Till personalchefen på IKEA” which means “To the chief of staff at IKEA”.
First paragraph: state why you’re writing to this specific person (for instance, if you’re answering a job advertisement) and follow with an introduction of yourself. For example, you may write about where you currently work, whether you’re married, how old you are, and what your interests and passions are.
Second paragraph: clarify which position you’re interested in and state the reasons for your interest in the position, why you’re interested in working for their company, and what you can bring to the table.
Third paragraph: tell the recipient about your personality and work experience. Make sure to emphasize your best and most relevant qualities. Are you ambitious? If so, tell them how your ambition manifests itself in real life. Are you a great problem-solver? Tell them about a problem you managed to solve at your workplace.
Fourth paragraph: make your great impression last by writing an excellent ending. Ending your cover letter on a positive note makes the employer more likely to contact you. For instance, you may write: “I’m looking forward to meeting you so I can tell you more about myself.”
Make it easy for them – if you write a one-page cover letter with no line breaks or subheadings, your cover letter goes straight in the trash. If you want your cover letter to stand a chance, make it spacious and easy to read by using line breaks, lists, and subheadings.
Adjust the cover letter according to the job – before you start writing your cover letter, you should put yourself in the shoes of your future employer. What qualities are they looking for in an employee? What are their expectations and hopes? Make sure to include anything relevant in your cover letter.
Don’t brag: Swedes are humble, and they dislike bragging or exaggerations. In your cover letter, stay true to who you are and be frank, honest, and humble.
Hopefully, this article has given you some valuable insights that you can use to write an exemplary Swedish email. Start with a “hej”, end with a “vänliga hälsningar”, and if you’re feeling bold enough, you might even include an emoji 🙂. Happy writing!Med vänliga hälsningar, Nathalie
PS: you can use our free language tool, VocabChat to create and record your own Swedish vocabulary and phrase lists.