email writing · formal and informal language · writing tips

How Formal Should You Be in Emails?

writing emails.

It’s important to be aware of using formal language and informal language when you’re writing emails.

I’m sure you have formal and informal words and phrases in your own language too.

When to Use May and Would

You can write in formal language, and use words such as “May” and “Would.” When do you think this is suitable?

  • Mostly when you’re writing about something that is business-related.
  • When you’re writing to people you don’t know.
  • When you’re writing to people you don’t want to know, such as insurance employees or the tax authorities.

Formal language is very correct language that creates distance.

This means that when you need to be friendly with people, it’s not a good idea to use very formal language. Because formal language creates distance. So if you wish to do business with someone or you need someone to do you a favour, what you need is slightly less formal language that still sounds friendly. In other words, be friendly, but correct.

Informal for Friends

When you’re with your real friends, what you want to use is informal language. I’ll give you examples of this some other time.

Now I’ll show you several examples of formal language, so you can compare this to slightly less formal but friendly words and phrases that are suitable for business emails.

Example 1:

Formal: I’m writing regarding the order you made yesterday.

Or: I’m writing concerning the order you made yesterday.

Less formal but still correct: I’m writing about the order you made yesterday.

About is “normal” English for regarding or concerning.

Example 2:

Formal: I’m in receipt of your letter of 16 March.

Less formal but still correct, and a lot more friendly: Thank you for your letter of 16 March.

You could also write: We received your letter of 16 March.

Example 3:

Formal: We beg of you an extension of the deadline so that we may finish all the necessary documentation.

Less formal but still correct: I’d greatly appreciate it if you could extend the deadline, which will give us a chance to finish all the required documentation.

Another note here is: If you use “we” it sounds more formal and less personal than if you use “I.” I recommend that you always use “I” in your emails.

Example 4:

Formal: We look forward to reception of your response.

Less formal but still correct: I look forward to receiving your response.

Example 5:

Formal: Pru Insurance takes pride in offering its clientele the highest level of customer service.

Less formal but still correct: Pru Insurance is proud of giving you superior customer service.

Tip: Using verbs and adjectives instead of nouns makes your writing less stiff and formal. As in example 5, use proud (adjective) in the place of pride (noun).

Example 6:

Formal: It has come to my attention that the controller is taking extensive time writing his report.

Less formal but still correct:I’ve noticed that the controller is taking longer writing his report.

Example 7:

Formal: We wish to inform you that the refinancing plan for the renovation of the South Wing has met with approval.

Less formal but still correct: This is to let you know that the refinancing plan for the renovation of the South Wing has been approved.

Quiz

Choose a word or words to replace the formal underlined words. Your aim is to make the sentence correct, but a bit more friendly.

Do this quiz online and check your answers here.

1 An important modification has been made to your life insurance benefits.

2 It is with great pleasure that we reviewed your excellent job performance statistics.

3 Please confer with me about this urgent problem.

4 I hope that these arrangements meet with the management’s approval.

5 I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

6 At the present time we are counting our inventory and as a consequence our business hours may be shortened.

7 Will you please give due consideration to my proposal and send me an answer before Friday?

8 The matter has just been brought to my attention.

9 We have knowledge that you were looking for a replacement of your old machinery.

10 Our employees seem to have a preference for having lunch at their desks, rather than in the cantine.

Want to do more exercises about email writing?

Have a look here:

How to Write Great Sentences for Emails

Formal and Informal Language in Emails

Basic Email Course: The Structure of Your Email

Letter and Email Writing: Openings

Letter and Email Writing: Greetings

One thought on “How Formal Should You Be in Emails?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s