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Writing Letters: formal & informal English

Writing Letters: formal & informal English

Hello, my name is Emma, and in today’s lesson
we are going to learn about writing. What kind of writing? Writing letters. Okay? So this
is important for people who work in business. It’s also important for people who like to
write letters to their friends maybe or to their grandparents in English. Also, it is
very… It is a very useful video for anyone who is taking the general IELTS test. So if
you’re taking not academic, but general, this is an important video. And also, if you plan
to immigrate to Canada and you want to do the Canadian immigration test which is called:
“the CELPIP”, this video is also… It will also be useful and helpful to you.
Okay? So let’s get started. What do I mean by “formal”
and “informal”? “Informal” means something you would write to your friends, something you
would write to your parents, – well, probably your parents unless you’re afraid of your
parents, then you might be more formal -, your classmates, your coworkers. Okay? So this is…
It means it’s not formal; it’s for people you know well. On the other hand, “formal”
English we use with strangers, we use with our boss, in the workplace, we use it in these
different ways. So it’s the English you really have to think about, whereas informal is kind of
the relaxed English. So relaxed, serious. Okay? So, sometimes you will have to write a letter
formally, maybe to your boss or your company, other times maybe you’re on holiday and you
want to write a letter to your friend, you’ll use informal English. So what
is the difference? Let’s see. Informal English uses contractions. What are
contractions? “Didn’t”, “wouldn’t”, “couldn’t”, “haven’t”, “hasn’t”. So if you see a verb
with an apostrophe and then a “t”, that is a contraction. Okay? It’s very important to
know this because in formal writing, you don’t use contractions. “Didn’t” would be: “Did
not”. I can write that for you. “Did not”. Couldn’t: could not, haven’t: have not, can’t:
cannot. Okay? So that’s one major difference. Another major difference between formal and
informal writing is the use of idioms; the use of certain expressions. If I’m writing
to my friend, maybe I’ll say: “Oh, you know, I’ve been very under the weather lately.”
Meaning: I’ve been very sick. If I’m writing to my boss, I won’t use idioms. If I’m writing
a formal letter, I will not use idioms. Those aren’t good to use
in formal writing. Phrasal verbs, this is another thing we find
in informal writing. What is a phrasal verb? It’s a verb that has a preposition. Okay? So,
for example: “find out”, “find” is a verb, “out” is the preposition. “Go” is the verb, “up”
is the preposition. So the… The preposition adds a different meaning to the verb. Phrasal
verbs are very difficult to learn; we have so many of them in English. My students have
told me phrasal verbs are one of the hardest parts of learning English, but
it’s possible, you can do it. So, in informal writing, we use phrasal verbs,
whereas in formal writing: what do we use? We don’t use phrasal verbs. We usually use
longer words that mean the same thing. Example: “find out”: “discover”. “Discover” is more
formal. “Go up”, for example: “Prices have gone up.”: “Prices have increased.” “Increased”
is more formal. Okay. For more of these examples, there will be a list in the resource
section of the engVid website. I’ll talk more about that later. Next: imperatives. Imperatives are sentences
that start with a verb. “Don’t talk to me that way.”, “Help your mother more.”, “Do
your homework.” Okay? Parents love to use imperatives and so do teachers. So, if you’re
writing to your friends, you can use imperatives. “Send it soon!” Maybe your friend has to mail
you a package, you write: “Send it soon! I want it, send it soon!” In formal writing, we
do not use imperatives; they’re too strong. We like to use more polite sentences: “You
may send it at your earliest convenience.” Do you see how much longer the formal is than
the informal? Formal writing is usually a lot longer than informal writing; it’s not
simple sentences, it’s long complex sentences. And you often see words like: “may”, “could”,
“would” instead of: “want”, “can”. Okay. So this is one of the
main differences. All right, so what are some more examples?
For informal, words like: “very”. “He’s very cool.”, “He’s really great.”, “He’s totally
hot.” Okay, these are things you would never say in the workplace, but you might say to
your friend. So if you see: “very”, “really”, “totally” – informal English. Okay? It’s…
It’s okay to use these in letter writing, but not when you’re writing to a client, to
your boss, in the workplace, on the IELTS if it says, you know: “A formal
letter”, don’t use these words. What about formal? “Strongly”. “I strongly
advise you to clean your room.” You’d never write that to anyone, but that’s an example
of “strongly”. It gives emphasis just like “really”, “very”, and “totally” do. Okay? So:
“I strongly agree.”, “We strongly recommend that you send in your order form as soon as
possible.” Okay? So you might see the word “strongly” used in
formal writing. Okay. Informal writing, you can use these as
connectors. Okay? So if you’re connecting one idea to another idea, one paragraph to
another paragraph. “To top it all off,”, “On top of it all,”. “To top it all off, my vacation
was ruined because of a blizzard.”, “To top it all off, there was a fly in my salad.”,
“To top it all off, the actor in the movie was horrible.” Okay? “On top of it all,” these
sort of mean like the last thing you say, the last word on something. “On top of it
all, she was very rude to me.” So these are informal expressions
to connect ideas. Here, we have some formal equivalents: “Furthermore,”.
“Furthermore, she was rude to me.”, “Furthermore, the actor was terrible.” Okay? So it’s the
formal way of saying things. “Moreover,” and all of these are another way to say: “and”,
so don’t let these words scare you; it’s just another way to say: “also”, “and”, you
add another piece of information. Okay, next idea for what’s informal use: “TV”.
“TV”, what is “TV”? It’s an abbreviation; it’s the short form of a word. The full word
is: “television”. So what does this mean? Do not use abbreviations in formal writing.
You can use “TV” in informal writing. Don’t use abbreviations
in formal writing. Next idea: “!”. In informal writing, you can
write: “!”, it’s okay. In formal writing: can you do this? No. So no “!”. Another difference: in informal writing, you
can use the word: “a lot”. “I have a lot of friends.”, “I have a lot of hobbies.”, “I
have a lot to say to you.”, “I have a lot to teach you.” In formal writing, the better
thing to use is: “much/many”. Okay, so if you write a letter in your company: “much/many”
better idea. They all mean: “a lot”. Finally, in informal writing, non-Latin words
are common. Now, why do I say: “non-Latin”? For those of you who speak Spanish, French,
Italian, these are Latin-based languages. For example: “intelligente” in French, the English
word… The English equivalent: “intelligent”. So you can see that many words in English have
a Latin root. Now, these words are usually more formal, so you don’t want to use Latin
words. You want to use common words. Okay? So non-Latin words/common words, this is in
informal writing, but you don’t want to use it in formal writing. In formal writing: use Latin based words, use
uncommon words. Okay? That’s a characteristic. So I would use the word: “intelligent”, I
would use the word… Instead of “smart”. Maybe with my friends, I write: “smart”,
here, I might use: “intelligent”. Okay, so for a full list of some of these
words I’m talking about, – you know, another example would be: “kids”, “children” -, phrasal
verbs, expressions to use in informal writing versus formal writing, for a longer list, you
can come visit our website at www.engvid.com. You can also visit our website to do our
quiz to see how much of this you remember. Until next time.

100 thoughts on “Writing Letters: formal & informal English

  1. thank you so much, wonderful teacher.I'm from the philippines,I watched a lot of your english videos and its helpful.

  2. Hi Emma, Can you please make a video on speech writing format intermediate level? I am in the 7th grade and will really need your help.

  3. Creative Savants can be accessed for placing orders for getting one’s college essay accomplished. The contact no is 00971525441428 that one should remember for ordering writing services.

  4. Hi Daddy,

    I'm writing this email to let you know that I'm going to get married in a few months.
    I have a lot of friends and I already sent wedding cards to them.
    Daddy and Mommy will be the people who talk to the bride's parents.
    Waiting for your respond.

    Thank you,


  5. First I'd like to thank you very much for your great efforts but I'd like to ask you if you can tell me the steps and the right procedures of teaching vocabulary?

  6. Emma I want to know that what would we write at the end of a letter 'your truly' or 'yours truly'?
    Kindly reply me.

  7. Is it mandatory to use contraction in all possible places for informal letters?

    If it's recommended , then how would one make a difference between " I would " and " I had" as both are written as I'd .

    Will it reduce my score as the examiner might get confused ?

    Is it okay to use contraction only at places where there is zero probability of getting confused and write full words at critical places?

  8. Dear Emma,
    Thanks for your letter. I hope you're fine.
    I am taking an exam which is called CEFR in Uzbekistan . In the writing section we are asked to write an informal letter without date and location. All we need is writing 60-80 words.
    What do you think about this letter ? How would you mark this letter from 10 ?
    Sorry, for my short letter. I should get ready for my exams.
    Write back soon.
    Best wishes,

  9. Hello Emma,
    Thank you so much for this informative and useful clip.
    Could you please inform me if you have another clips about font size and other adjustments which we have to consider when we are writing a letter.
    Good Luck,

  10. Great tips to differentiate in formal and informal ! Have a small query regarding use of apostrophe in denoting possession, for example, today's weather or government's spending – are they good to use in formal writing ? both letter and essay ?

  11. Thank you for this. Finally, a video with music in the background or no effects down with it. Thank you so much! My exam is Tuesday! Thanks for the help!

  12. than you mam for uploading this vedio .otherwise i am can't be able to understand formal and informal letters. your teaching ability is mindblowing.

  13. Dear Emma
    I hope you well
    How are you?
    I would like to express my gratitude for your awesome teaching. Moreover I strongly know that you are tied up.
    Best Wishes,

  14. This is not a writing letter example
    There is no adress in top of the letter, no introduction, no paragraph and ..

  15. U cannot explain it too much, u have a lot of pause… like you're still thinking what to say… rebeca is better…

  16. Thank you ,teacher
    You are my best English teacher.
    I listened to many many videos from you so you became my first teacher.
    I am kindly requesting some academic writings and proposals

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