Contacting people — whether by email, messaging apps, or phones — is one of the most common things done in business.
However, “contact” is not the only word used for this action. To help you improve your business English vocabulary, we’ll explain five of the most common expressions that are often used instead.
Reach Out (phrasal vb.)
You probably know what “reach out” means in the context of reaching out your hand.
In English business communications, “reach out” is often used as a casual way to say “contact (someone).” For example, at the end of an email, you might see the sentence, “Feel free to reach out if you have any questions” (instead of “Feel free to contact me ...”).
Or let’s say there’s a job posting you want to share with someone in your network. You might email them to say, “I’m reaching out to share an opportunity you might be a good fit for” instead of “I’m writing to …” which sounds more formal.
You’ll also see this phrase used in customer service emails. For example, “Thanks for reaching out. Our support team will get back to you within three business days.”
And don’t forget to “reach out” to one of our tutors if you have any questions about your business English!
Chat (vb., n.)
“Chat” means to have an informal conversation. However, in business, it can mean a meeting, interview, or meet-up.
For example, if you’re thinking about becoming a project manager, you might ask to have a “coffee chat” with someone who is currently a project manager to learn about their experiences. As the name implies, coffee chats are usually done over coffee.
If you’re a team leader looking to hire someone, you might write to them over email, “I was impressed by your résumé. Let’s find some time to chat soon.” In this case, “chat” could mean anything from a casual conversation to an interview.
Some people will also sign off their emails with “chat soon” as in “Chat soon, Brian.” This is like “see you soon” or “talk soon” but more casual.
And don’t forget that “chat” can also refer to text chat. For example, many emails from companies say “chat with us” at the bottom, which means “contact customer service via text chat.”
Get Back (phrasal vb.)
“Get back” is a casual way to say “reply.” This could mean replying to an email or calling someone back. Here are some examples:
- “Thanks so much for getting back to me.”
- “If you could get back to me in the next few days, that’d be great. Cheers!”
- “Sorry for not getting back to you sooner.”
This phrase is also perfect when you need to reply to a question, but either don’t know the answer or don’t want to provide specifics. For example, “Can I get back to you on this later?”
You’ll also hear this phrase used at the end of interviews, as in “It was great chatting with you today. We’ll get back to you in the next few weeks about the position.”
Drop a Line (idiom)
To “drop someone a line” originally meant to write someone a short letter that has at most one line (or a few lines) of writing. The letters were then dropped off at the recipient’s home.
These days, “drop a line” often means to write a quick message or make a quick phone call. Between friends, it’s often used when writing to someone you haven’t written to in a while.
For example, at the beginning of an email to a friend, someone might write, “I just wanted to drop you a line and say hello. How have you been?” And some use it at the end of their emails like this: “Anyways, just wanted to drop you a line! Hope you’ve been well!”
In business English, it’s often used instead of “inform.” After all, a long letter isn’t necessary when you just need to notify someone of something.
- “I’ll drop you a line when we’re halfway through the project.”
- “Please drop me a line when you arrive in New York.”
- “I’m on holiday now, but I’ll drop you a line when I’m back.”
Circle Back (phrasal vb.)
“Circle back” means to get back to someone usually after some time has passed. “Circle” refers to the fact that you can’t directly get back to someone. You might need to confirm something with a manager or complete some task before you can “circle back” to them.
Here are some examples:
- “Hope you’ve been well! Just circling back to let you know that the report is now ready.”
- “Good question. I’ll bring this up with my colleagues and circle back with next steps.”
- “Hello again, just wanted to circle back to this conversation. Are you still available for a chat next week?”
“Circle back” can also mean to return to a topic that was discussed earlier. For example, you might use it if someone has brought up a good idea, but you don’t have time to deal with it at the moment: “Great idea! Let’s circle back to this next week.”
A Final Word of Advice
If you want someone to check an email you’ve written or want to improve your business communications in general, have a chat with one of our tutors!