In the old days or rather, the time before the internet became a must in every home, one of the most common forms of communication was letter writing. The problem with it was it can take weeks before your letter could arrive at its destination and by the time it did get there, the news written could already be old, stagnant and incorrect. These days, the internet has now made communication easier with the modern version of the letter, the email, sent back and forth in a matter of seconds; however, there is one thing grown adults in desk jobs and students enrolled in English schools in Makati have in common—the confusion when it comes to formal and informal email phrases.
The unfortunate problem with emails is once you’ve sent it, there’s no turning back. And the worst part is, sometimes you can be quite unsure if the terms or phrases you used in your emails are appropriate for your correspondent. Check out this guide to avoid self doubt in sending your messages.
In formal writing, if you are unsure if the person you are addressing to is a woman or a man, it would be best to address the letter as ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ to avoid any confusion in regards to the receiving party’s gender. If you do know the gender of the person you are about to correspond with, then start the email with a ‘Dear’ then depending on their gender resort to either Mr or Ms. Exception to these rules are addressees with honorifics such as doctors, lawyers and attorneys; during this circumstance, begin the email with their title. For example, Ms Garcia will now become Dr Garcia.
When it comes informal writing, the general rule is to begin with your greeting such as Hi, Hello or Dear. Afterwards you may immediately address your correspondent by their first name or you may add a Mr or Ms before the first name. If unsure on the gender of your addressee, it would be best to address the letter the same way as a formal letter, with ‘Dear Sir/Madam’.
When making an apology in formal writing, do not use sorry as this word is used for informal emails; instead, use apologize. For example, “I would like to apologize” or “Please accept our apologies”.
As mentioned earlier, sorry is used for informal apologies. For example, “I’m sorry” or “We want to say sorry” can be used in your email.
Reason for Writing
Most of the time, you won’t be typing an email of apology to your addressee, but of something totally unrelated, probably just reminding them of a meeting, informing them of a new product, etcetera. Whether it’s a formal or informal email, keep your message clear and concise so as to get your message across.
For formal emails, you usually say ‘I am emailing you regarding/with regards’. Other phrases you can use are ‘With reference to’ or ‘I am writing due to’. For informal emails, keep it casual with phrases like ‘I was wondering’, ‘I’d like to ask’ or ‘I’ve a question about’.
When ending your letter in a formal email, always end with your full name below either sincerely or regards. Acceptable variations of the two include best regards, sincerely yours and faithfully yours. Do note that the latter of the three variations are mostly used in British formal writing.
These days, a popular way to end an informal email is with a simple ‘best’ followed by your first name below. Other variations include best wishes, all the best and thanks.
If you get formal and informal phrases wrong, always remember formal emails tend to be longer than informal. This is mainly due to the fact that abbreviations and contractions are mostly frowned upon in formal email writing. If you are still confused, do not be afraid to ask for help as everybody needs help in whatever they are doing at some point.