Without looking at the lists below, lift up the Formal card if you hear language from a formal email, Informal for the opposite.
Do the same, but this time also raising both cards for something that is neutral (= can be used in both formal and informal/ friendly emails), or no cards at all for something that is never used in English emails (e.g. typical mistakes).
Label the sections below with F for formal, I for informal, B for both (= neutral) and N for neither.
Hi Hello Hi John
Dear Sir or Madam Dear Mr Jones
I am writing to you in connection with… I am writing to you regarding…
I am writing in order to… I am writing to you concerning…
Thank you for your letter, which I received this morning. With reference to…
Thank you for taking the time to meet me last week.
How’s it going? How are things? How’s life?
Please find my report attached. Unfortunately I will not be able to…
… if that is convenient with you.
I would like to apologise for… I am very grateful for…
Give my regards to Mr Smith. I regret to inform you that…
I can’t make it then, but… Help!
Hope that’s okay Hope that helps.
I look forward to hearing from you soon. Thank you in advance.
If you need any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me.
See you again soon, I hope. Miss you!
Bye for now. Keep in touch.
Lots of love Hugs and kisses
Yours sincerely Your faithfully Sincerely yours
Dear Mr Alex To Alex From John
What are the general differences between formal and informal language in emails?
Decide if each of the things below is a characteristic of formal or informal emails:
– Grammar (e.g. word order) unlike normal speech
– Similar to speech
– Avoid contractions (= using “I am” instead of “I’m”, etc)
– Using short forms (btw etc)
– Longer words and longer sentences
– No subject or no subject and no auxiliary verb
– Phrasal verbs like “get + back + to + me”
– Other idioms made from short words like “keep + in + touch”
– Other idiomatic language or slang
– Very polite language such as “Would you mind…?”
– Exclamation marks and multiple punctuation (e.g. !!!!)
– Emoticons such as smileys
– Just first names
– Family names
Why can that one section on the last page be used with both formal and informal emails?
Can you think of any other medium level or neutral emailing phrases?
Try to make versions of the sentences in italics above for the different levels of formality.
I am writing to you in connection with… = About
Thank you for your letter, which I received this morning. = I was so excited to get your letter this morning./ It was so nice to get your letter, which came this morning.
Thank you for taking the time to meet me last week. = It was so nice to see you (again) last week.
How’s it going? – I hope you are well.
Please find my report attached. – I’ve attached the report.
… if that is convenient with you. – … if that’s okay with you./ Sound okay?
I would like to apologise for… – Sorry about…
I am very grateful for… – Thanks for…/ Cheers for…
Give my regards to Mr Smith. – Send my love to John./ Say hi to John from me.
I regret to inform you that… – Bad news, I’m afraid./ Sorry, but…
I can’t make it then, but… – I’m afraid I am not available at that time due to… However,…
Help! – Any assistance you can give me in this matter would be greatly appreciated.
Hope that’s okay – I hope that is acceptable with you.
I look forward to hearing from you soon. – Write soon!/ Hope to hear from you soon.
Thank you in advance. – Thanks/ Cheers
If you need any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me. – If anything else isn’t clear, just let me know./ If you want to know anything else, just drop me a line.
See you again soon, I hope. – I hope we have the chance to meet again soon./ I look forward to meeting you again soon.
Cards for students to hold up
PDF version for easy saving and printing: Formal and informal emails card game new version