Formal & Informal writing styles

Formal and informal style in letters and emails

Formal letter

Informal letter

Dear Mr/Ms (surname) | Dear Sir/Madam | Dear Sir or Madam,

Reason for writing
I am writing to …
I am writing with regard to …
I am writing on behalf of …

Asking questions
I would be grateful if …
I wonder if you could …
Could you …? Could you tell me something about …?
I would particularly like to know …
I would be interested in having more details about …

Referring to their letter
As you started in your letter, …
Regarding … Concerning … With regard to …

Complaining
I am writing to complain about …
You said … but in fact what happened …
We were supposed to stay with British families whereas we actually stayed in a guest house.

Closing
If you require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Please contact me if you have any further questions.

Signing off
(If Dear surname) Yours sincerely,
(If Dear Sir/Madam) Yours faithfully,

First name + surname

Remember that in formal letters we use

  • Formal vocabulary, usually not using phrasal verbs
    (‘Tolerate’ instead of ‘put up with’)
  • More complex sentence structure
    (Knowing what a good reputation the restaurant has, I was disappointed with the service)
  • Punctuation using semi-colons
    The library offers no facilities for borrowing videos; this is because of the high cost involved

Dear (first name),

Beginnings
Thank you/Many thanks for your (recent/last) letter/postcard.
It was good/nice to hear from you recently.
I’m sorry I haven’t written/been in touch for such a long time.
It’s ages since I’ve heard from you. I hope you’re/you and your family are well.

Asking
Hi! / How are the things? / How are you? / How’s it going?

Referring to their news
Great news about … Glad to hear that … Sorry to hear about …

Giving news
Listen, did I tell you about …? You’ll never believe what …
Oh, and another thing … This is just to let you know that …
I thought you might be interested to hear about/know that …
By the way, have you heard about/did you know that …

Apologies
I’m writing to apologise for missing your party but I’m afraid I was with flu.
I’m really sorry that I forgot to send you a birthday card but I was busy with my new job.
If you let me know where you bought it/how much it cost I’ll gladly pay for it/replace it.
Please let me know how much the bill is and I’ll gladly pay it.

Invitations
I’m/We’re having a party on Friday 19th and I/we hope you’ll be able to come.
Would you like to come/go to see ‘Room With a View’ with me at the weekend.
I was wondering if you’d like to go to the theatre/come on holiday with us?
Could you let me/us know if you can come/you’d like to join us?
Thank you vary much for your invitation. I’d love to come.
Thank you for asking/inviting me to … but I’m afraid I won’t be able to …

Requests
I’m writing to ask for your help/you (if you could do me) a favour.
I wonder if/I was wondering if you could help me/do me a favour.
I hope you don’t mind me asking but could you (possibly) …?
I’d be very/really/terribly grateful if you could …

Thank you / Congratulations / Good Luck
I’m writing to thank you for your hospitality/the wonderful present.
It was so kind of you to invite me to stay with you.
I really appreciated all your help/advice.

Congratulations on passing your exams/your excellent exam results!

I wish you good luck/Good luck in/with your exams/your driving test/your interview.

Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll do well/pass.
Do be on time, won’t you, and don’t forget to …

Making suggestions and recommend
Why don’t you …? Maybe you could …? How about …?
You can’t leave New York without doing sth
I’m sure you will enjoy doing sth If you like, we can …
Do visit somewhere Don’t forget to do sth (Imperative -> Strong Recommendation)
I’m told that … People say that … (If you heard sth is good)

Endings
Give my love/regards to … Say hello to … Hope to hear from you soon.
See you soon! Write soon. Once again, thank you for all your help.

Signing off
Love,
Lots of love,
All the best,
Best wishes,

Remember that in informal letters we use:

  • Informal vocabulary, including phrasal verbs
    ‘go on’ instead of ‘continue
  • Simpler sentence structure
    I’ll be late for the party. It’s because of my French exam.
  • Punctuation using exclamation marks
    If you’d been at the wedding, you’d have loved the food!

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