S2E1: Formal V Informal

S2E1: Formal V Informal

Before we start, there is some vocabulary we need to go through.

  • Rectify (verb) put right; correct.
  • Tends (verb) regularly or frequently behave in a particular way or have a certain characteristic.
  • Amount(s) (verb) come to be (the total) when added together.
  • Unsolicited (adj) not asked for; given or done voluntarily.
  • Addressed (adj) bearing the name and address of the intended recipient.
  • Annual leave – paid time off work granted by employers to employees to be used for whatever the employee wishes.

We’ve looked at a lot of formal language with examples for phrases you can use in your emails in order to sound professional and alert. But how do you know when you’ve used informal language? It can happen by accident, especially when emailing someone you know.

This lesson will show you the difference between formal and informal language. By the end, you will be able to catch yourself writing informally and immediately rectify it.

Here’s one major difference between formal and informal writing.

When writing formally, it is best to use fixed phrases and longer words in order to sound polite and fluent. When writing informally the language tends to be simpler, with short sentences, and a more personal touch. I will now read a series of phrases. I will start by reading the informal phrase and then I will mention its formal counterpart.

What do you need?Please let us know your requirements.
Thanks for the email of 12th Feb.Thank you for your email which I received on the 12th February.
Sorry, I can’t make it.I am afraid I will not be able to attend.
I’m sorry to tell you that…We regret to inform/advise you…
I promise…I can assure you…
Could you…?I was wondering if you could…
You haven’t…We note that from our records, you have not…
I need to…I would be grateful if you could…
Can I…?Would you like me to…?
But/also/soHowever/in addition/therefore…
Re.With regards to… (or) with reference to…
See you next week.I look forward to meeting you next week.
I’m sorry for…Please accept our apologies for…
Just to let you know…I am writing to inform you that…
Good/Great news!I am delighted to inform you that…
I’ve attached / I’m attaching / Here it is…Please find attached…
Hey Martha!Dear Martha,
We chatted last week…Just to follow up on our discussion last week about…

Here are some things you must remember to do when writing formal emails.

The majority of them are punctuation related. I know these tips may sound simple – or even obvious – but it will surprise you how many people forget to do the following:

  • Start every sentence with a capital letter.
  • Do not put a space before a comma. Always put a space after the use of a comma.
  • Always use a capital letter with a proper noun (which is the name of a place, person, or thing. For example: London (place), Amanda (person), White House (thing).
  • Always use a capital I as a pronoun.
  • If you’re sending an attachment, do not use strange/distracting fonts in the document you’re sending. (Stick to Arial and Times New Roman or fonts otherwise known as ‘serif’).
  • Only send attachments when asked to. (Do not send unsolicited attachments).
  • Always remember to check your email before you send it. Make sure your spelling, grammar and punctuation is correct. Most importantly: make sure you’ve addressed the email correctly.
  • Keep your message focused. Yes, you should write complex sentences when you send a formal email but you don’t want your message to be confusing or easy to misunderstand. You want it to be clear.

Here’s a quick note about your email ‘subject’.

Don’t leave the subject of the email blank. The subject of the email is very important as it is the first thing your reader will see (apart from your name). Therefore, you must explain exactly what your email is regarding in a few simple words. Here are some examples. Subject: Tax return / Subject: Next week’s meeting / Subject: Annual leave. In the next episode I’ll talk about Business Slang. Stay tuned.