In a business scene, we often need to deal with something more complex than some of introductory "business English" texts. More often than not, it isn't as simple as

John: Would Tuesday suit you?
Paul: That's fine with me. Thank you.
John: Thank you. Talk to you then.

For example, suppose I'm arranging a phone call with someone outside our company, possibly in another continent. I have to tell (perhaps via email) when I'll be available for a call and the condition can easily be as complex as:

  1. It's Wednesday afternoon right now here in Tokyo.
  2. I'll be available for a phone call for the rest of this week and the next week. (I'm not sure about my schedule for the week after next.)
  3. I'll be available only after 1pm every day.
  4. Except, I'll be only available after 3pm this Friday and before 5pm on Tuesday next week.

How do native speaker write for this? In case we use email for arrangement, a single, long and detailed email is preferred over exchanging short ones over and over again.


Native speakers never bother to use a bullet list like the above for arranging a call in a business scene, for good or bad. I'd like to know "plain English" to express the same thing. I don't need comments like "But bullet lists can actually be better than 'plain English'..."

  • There are probably many ways to write this, but my comments would be: 1. When using time references, use their time zone, not yours. Personally, if you were contacting me I would make it a point to know what time it was where you are, out of common courtesy. 2. OK, but "following week", not "next week". 3. Again use the recipients time. 4. "However" is better than "Except". And "I'll only be available". Better here to use actual dates rather than "this" or "next" week to avoid confusion.
    – user3169
    Feb 24, 2016 at 6:59
  • (For later reference, today is February 24.) How can I refer to "this" week or "following" week with actual dates?
    – nodakai
    Feb 24, 2016 at 7:05
  • 1
    I meant for terms like "this Friday" or "Tues next week". Based on writing time, this week or next week are OK.
    – user3169
    Feb 24, 2016 at 17:36

2 Answers 2


Unless it's absolutely imperative that they know your every available hour, I would just trim it up a bit:

Call me anytime in the next two weeks after 1pm Tokyo time, except Tuesday or Friday.

It's not as accurate but it's simple and probably gives them more than enough options on when to call you. If you really need them to understand the full extent of your availability (perhaps because it is very important that you be available to be called at all times) then I really would consider a bulleted list:

Here's my availability for the next two weeks:

  • This Friday after 3pm.
  • Prior to 5pm next Tuesday.
  • Any other day after 1pm.

If I was speaking this to them on the phone, it would sound a lot like me reading that quote as-is.

You could also write it as a sentence:

Here's my availability for the next two weeks: this Friday after 3pm; prior to 5pm next Tuesday; any other day after 1pm.

Could also use commas instead of semicolons but I believe it's appropriate to use semicolons as a sort of "super comma" when the things you are separating are complex. This is probably what you are looking for, in fact. The semicolon is basically the bullet point of a single sentence. See: here (funny comic about semicolons).

  • "Here's my availability for the next two week" This phrase is very handy for me.
    – nodakai
    Jul 3, 2016 at 8:31

The issue here is not much of English usage but the fact that you are dealing with a complex topic most people think it is not very complex. To begin with, you have to find a suitable time for two or more busy people. There are significant time differences so 'suitable time' may not exist and people will need to be flexible. Then, you need to refer to time in an AM/PM format or in a 24 hour format and this is a cultural issue, more than a language issue. In Europe people are used to the 24-hour format but in the USA only people in the military use that format. Finally, you have a situation that most people are not aware of: the date might be different for both parties.

So to answer your question, I would use an introductory paragraph and then a bulleted list of options for my client to choose. These options will have the date and time of my client (need to find out in which time zone he or she is) and in parentheses the date and time for me. Let's say I am in Tokio and my client is in New York, that is my client is 14 hours behind me. It seems my best chance would be to take the call from home late at night when my client is arriving at work. Or, I can take the call very early and my client would be very late of the prior day. You may need to explain this to your client, unless they have done business with your region extensively.

Given the time difference between our countries, I suggest these possible times

  1. Thursday, 7 am New York (9 pm Tokio)
  2. Thursday, 9 pm New York (Friday, 7 am Tokio)

If these are inconvenient, please suggest another time.

The time of New York is also called EST or Eastern Standard Time (except that in summer they move one hour and are called EDT).

  • Thanks, but when I have more flexibility in my schedule, isn't it too limiting? I'm not worrying too much about subtlety of time differences when there are handy world-clock web services like this
    – nodakai
    Feb 25, 2016 at 2:22
  • I agree that only two options of timing may be limiting. In my personal experience in similar situation, giving 3 to 4 options is almost always enough, especially if the options include different times and dates. Feb 25, 2016 at 16:21

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