email writing · writing tips

Formal and Informal Language in Emails

By Jacqueline Schaalje
I’ve written about this subject before here. 

In that article you could read about the differences between formal and informal language in emails. Formal language uses could and may. We then learnt how to make formal emails more friendly. When you’re writing it’s very important to sound friendly, because your message is meant to communicate something. If people just read your email and it sounds as if the writer is not interested in them, they will shrug and ignore your message.


Now we’ll talk about making informal emails a little more formal.

Making your emails more formal mostly means making your sentences longer. I don’t know if this is the same in your language, but in English you want to use more words in order to sound polite. Short sentences are often informal and/or rude.

We’re going to use lots of can you, would you, and perhaps you’d like.

Here is a bunch of examples:

Informal Formal
Please help me. I’d greatly appreciate your help in this matter.
Do you have time to meet this afternoon? Would it be possible for you to meet this afternoon?
Hope that’s okay. I expect that won’t be too much of a burden on you.
I have a favour to ask you. I wonder if it would be too much trouble to ask you…
I don’t have enough time for this. I’m afraid I need more time for this.
I’m writing to you about… I’m writing to you in connection with…
Sorry for taking so long to get back to you. Sorry for my late reply.
You sent the wrong amount. There seems to have been a misunderstanding about the transferred amount.
Keep in touch. Hope we have the chance to meet again soon.

Okay, to just be sure you got this: It’s not always wrong to use informal emails or an informal tone when you speak. It just depends in what situation you use informal or informal language. When you don’t know a person very well, you use a formal tone. When you are best friends with someone, you use an informal tone.

Don’t Do These

However, it is almost never right to use very informal phrases or sms-style abbreviations in an email. Here are some things that I find in emails and that are not done:

Too Informal Emails (2)

Now try this exercise:

On the left side are some informal phrases that some jerk wrote in an email.

Make them polite and more formal. Possible solutions at the bottom of the page.

Informal Formal
How’s life?
Can I give you a tip?
I need your help asap.
Fuck, I forgot again, didn’t I?
I’d like to find out…
Write soon!
See ya

Scroll down for the answers.






Scroll down some more.







Scroll down.





Possible Answers:

Informal Formal
How’s life? How are you?
Can I give you a tip? May I suggest…? / Maybe you’d like…?
I need your help asap. If it’s not too much trouble, could you help me solve an issue?
Fuck, I forgot again, didn’t I? I apologize for the delay in replying to your email.
I’d like to find out… I’d love to hear more information regarding…
Write soon! I’m looking forward to hearing from you soon.
See ya Regards

Want to practise more with formal and informal writing?

Have a look here:

How formal should you be in emails?

The structure of your email

6 thoughts on “Formal and Informal Language in Emails

  1. I was looking for some group activity stuff, and I liked the exercises you have here until I saw the F-word! I teach business students, and even though they are adults, one doesn’t want to use profanities in front of the ladies. I can change that one word, thanks for the useful ideas (and the laugh at seeing the f-word!)


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